Health Equity Advocate On Black Doctor's Video Of Her Treatment For COVID-19
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The name Dr. Susan Moore has become a hashtag on social media. Moore, a family physician, died of COVID-19 in an Indiana hospital last week. She was 52. Days before she died, she posted a video on Facebook in which she said her doctors treated her as if she were a drug addict. She said they were planning to discharge her from the hospital too soon.
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SUSAN MOORE: This is how Black people get killed - when you send them home and they don't know how to fight for themselves.
KELLY: In that video, which has now circulated all over social media, Dr. Moore maintained that if she were white, her care for COVID-19 would have been very different. Joia Crear-Perry is president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. She joins us now.
Thanks for speaking with us.
JOIA CREAR-PERRY: Thank you so much for having me.
KELLY: What went through your mind when you first watched that video of Dr. Moore speaking from her hospital bed?
CREAR-PERRY: You know, it was so deeply saddening and very familiar. As the world watched the murder of George Floyd - and it stopped the world in its tracks because although we'd heard about police violence before, and we knew it existed, and we've seen data and reports, that's the same way that I felt watching Dr. Susan Moore describe what was happening to her inside of the hospital. It was a glimpse into the side of what we all know to be true, what we've experienced as members of the Black community inside of health care - as health care providers, as an OBGYN - and also just knowing that it was not going to end well, knowing that she was begging and pleading and wanting to be seen and valued as fully human. And that wasn't happening.
KELLY: You, I know, have worked with hospitals on anti-racism training. Is there data? Do we know how common what Dr. Moore described as her experience was?
CREAR-PERRY: Well, we do know from the data - we work in the Black maternal health space, and there's been some studies that show that medical students believe that Black patients don't feel pain the same way, that they believe that Black patients had thicker skin. There was also a study that was done out of the University of North Carolina that showed that if there was a Black patient and a white patient asking for a pain treatment to - you know, after having that major abdominal surgery - that the Black patient got it in a less timely manner and less frequently and with the less amount.
So every time that I've worked with hospitals and I've said, OK, well, maybe it's not you; maybe that's just that hospital or that group. Run your own data. Look to see, by race, if you're managing your patients' pain equally, if, when they come in, they get the same treatment. And I've yet to have a hospital come back and say, see, I told you. We're doing it all the same. So I'm looking forward to that day.
KELLY: You're making a point that Dr. Moore herself made in that video. She said she believed she was denied more pain medication - or as much as she needed - because of her race. I want to mention that the hospital where she was treated, Indiana University Health, has put out a statement. They say they can't comment on her specific case because of privacy laws, but they say the hospital is committed to equity, to reducing racial disparities. They say they're going to do a full investigation. What will you be watching for in that investigation?
CREAR-PERRY: I'm excited to hear that they want to investigate. It was a little traumatizing for communities. I know that these privacy laws are important. But if you've been a community like the Black community or LGBTQI community or Indigenous folks who've been - had mistrust from the health care system because we've been abused by it and lied to and not treated well, when we hear things like we can't comment, that doesn't engender trust going forward.
KELLY: Some people listening might be wondering, hang on; over-prescription of pain meds, of opioids, has been a huge problem. Doctors and hospitals have struggled with how to balance against overprescribing with, obviously, the very real need for care and pain relief. Do you think that was at all in play here?
CREAR-PERRY: Yes. I'm sure that the providers in that hospital were hypersensitive and very aware of the pain issues and the pain pill issues. But unfortunately, when you are from a community that has been not centered and has been marginalized, the assumption is, well, you must be pill-seeking like these other people, and we must then count.
So the assumption is really real, and I've experienced it my own self, where family members are assumed to be drug-seeking, pill-seeking and never just looking at the person as an individual, saying, would I want my 52-year-old friend - as Dr. Susan Moore could be any of our friend - to be lying here in pain? Don't I want to address her pain? Don't I want her to be pain-free? Don't I value her? And that's what we're asking for.
KELLY: Dr. Joia Crear-Perry - she heads the National Birth Equity Collaborative. She was speaking about the experience of Dr. Susan Moore, who died of COVID-19 on December 20.
Dr. Crear-Perry, thank you.
CREAR-PERRY: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.