RACE AND TOWN: What happened to Dr. Susan Moore?


Race and Storyline: The analysts came right out of their chairs and cheered when Joia Crear-Perry said it.

Dr. Crear-Perry was speaking to Amy Goodman, a PBS cable host we quit long ago. She seemed to be reviving a key belief—a key belief which had seemed to lose favor here in the streets of Our Town.

Crear-Perry seemed to be restating that important belief. The analysts leaped to their feet and cheered when they heard her do so:

CREAR-PERRY (12/30/20): If I was taught in medical school, as I was—I was taught that there were three biological races—that’s racism. 

Racism was not created by God. Racism was not created by medicine. Those things have been—racism was created by people who wanted to hold power and wealth. And so, our job is to fight for equality and justice and joy, and to say, “How do we undo all these places inside of medicine where we say that Black people have different lungs or different kidney capacity or different pelvis shapes?” 

All this talk that we have a different shape of our pelvis, how could that possibly be, when it’s just melanin production that makes us different? That’s the only one difference. Our pelvis and our melanin have nothing to do with each other. So, really undoing those racist ideas that we were all taught inside of medicine  so that we can have antiracism.

Crear-Perry seemed to have said there's no such thing as (biological) race. She seemed to have said that we humans are basically all  the same, not different—that the notion of (biological) race is just a "social construct."

The youngsters rushed back to their study carrels, light shining in their eyes. For ourselves, we were glad to hear Crear-Perry say what she said, but we were also a little surprised, given the various things she'd said in the bulk of the prior discussion.

Joined by another medical specialist, Crear-Perry had been speaking with Goodman on the December 30 Democracy Now. The basic focus of their discussion is captured by the way Goodman began her introduction of the segment.

GOODMAN (12/30/20): I’m Amy Goodman. As we just reported, the death of a Black doctor from COVID-19 is shining stark new light on racism in medical care and how the virus is devastating Black communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Black and Latinx people are dying of COVID-19 at a rate almost three times that of white Americans.

Earlier this month, Dr. Susan Moore posted this now-viral video on Facebook describing racist treatment by medical staff who did not respond to her pleas for care, despite being in intense pain and being a doctor herself. She said in the video, “This is how Black people get killed.”

Goodman's segment was built around the recent death of Dr. Susan Moore, a 52-year-old physician. Dr. Moore had died of Covid-19 following stays at two different Indiana hospitals.

Dr. Moore had posted videotapes to social media complaining about the medical treatment she received during her first hospitalization. These videotapes had been widely discussed. 

In a news report in the New York Times, John Eligon provided some basic background. We're offering you this information because, if we want to live in a rational and responsible world, information has to matter at least as much as Storyline:

ELIGON (12/24/20): [Dr. Moore] said the white doctor at the hospital in suburban Indianapolis where she was being treated for Covid-19 had downplayed her complaints of pain. He told her that he felt uncomfortable giving her more narcotics, she said, and suggested that she would be discharged.

“I was crushed,” she said in a video posted to Facebook. “He made me feel like I was a drug addict.”

In her post, which has since circulated widely on social media, she showed a command of complicated medical terminology and an intricate knowledge of treatment protocols as she detailed the ways in which she had advocated for herself with the medical staff. She knew what to ask for because she, too, was a medical doctor.

But that was not enough to get her treatment and respect she said she deserved. “I put forth and I maintain if I was white,” she said in the video, “I wouldn’t have to go through that.”

So went Eligon's initial capsule account. In his next graf, he wrote this:

ELIGON (continuing directly) After Dr. Moore, 52, complained about her treatment, she received care that she said “adequately treated” her pain. She was eventually sent home, and on Sunday, just more than two weeks after posting the video, Dr. Moore died of complications from Covid-19, said her son, Henry Muhammed.

So went Eligon's initial account of Dr. Moore's illness and death. In Dr. Moore's assessment, she had been improperly treated at the start of her first hospital stay—and she maintained that the inappropriate treatment had been based upon her race.  This claim had received a great deal of attention by the time of the December 30 discussion on Democracy Now. 

For what it's worth:

As Eligon continued, he presented a fuller picture of Moore's account of her medical treatment. We offer this additional information because, if we want to live intelligent lives here in Our Town, information must be allowed to coexist with Storyline:

ELIGON: In her struggle with the coronavirus at I.U. Health North Hospital in Carmel, Ind., Dr. Moore wrote in an update on Facebook that she eventually spoke with the hospital system’s chief medical officer, who assured her that she would get better care and that diversity training would be held. She got a new doctor, and her pain was being managed better, she wrote.

But even as things seemed to be improving at the hospital, Dr. Moore still felt that the care was lacking and that the medical staff became less responsive, according to Mr. Muhammed, who spoke to her daily. While she did not really feel like she was well enough to be discharged, she was eager to get home to take care of her parents, he said.


The hospital released her on Dec. 7, he said, and she was sluggish and tired when she got home. The hospital called several times to check up on her, he said, and when she did not respond, it sent an ambulance. His mother could barely walk and was breathing heavily when the ambulance arrived. She was taken to a different hospital 12 hours after being discharged from the previous one, she said on Facebook.

“Spiked a temperature of 103 and my blood pressure plummeted to 80/60 with a heart rate of 132,” she wrote.

Dr. Moore described her care at the new hospital as compassionate, and said she was being treated for a bacterial pneumonia in addition to Covid-19 pneumonia. Her condition would quickly deteriorate, however. The last time Mr. Muhammed spoke to her, just before she was put on a ventilator, she was coughing so badly she could barely speak, he said.

Dr. Moore died in that second hospital after several days on a ventilator. The videotapes she had posted produced wide discussion on social media and then in the press, with participants rarely noting an elementary fact:

Such observers had no obvious way of assessing the accuracy of Dr. Moore's various claims. There was, and is, no obvious way to know what actually happened.

Had Dr. Moore received inadequate treatment, during her first hospital stay, on the basis of her race? Has she received inadequate treatment at all?

There's no obvious way to answer such questions, but in the streets of human towns, this basic problem rarely forestalls the advance of Storyline. And in this case, a potent, widely-loved Storyline was waiting to be expressed.

What kind of treatment did Dr. Moore receive during that first hospital stay? Had the treatment been inappropriate in some way? 

As of December 30, there didn't seem to be any way that anyone could reliably say. That said, Dr. Crear-Perry had already offered an assessment in the Washington Post—had even compared the videotapes Dr. Moore posted to the horrific videotape of George Floyd being killed, facedown in the street, under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin.

Crear-Perry worked from a powerful Storyline, one which was built upon "race." It was very much like an earlier Storyline, except with the roles of the "races" reversed!

Tomorrow: The role of "race" in Storyline right here in the streets of Our Town


  1. "There was, and is, no obvious way to know what actually happened."

    This idea is ridiculous. Hospitals keep records, including the amount and time when pain meds were administered and the symptoms, diagnosis and vital signs of the patient.

    There exist standards for the administration of pain medication:

    "In 2001, as part of a national effort to address the widespread problem of underassessment and
    undertreatment of pain, The Joint Commission (formerly The Joint Commission on the
    Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or JCAHO) introduced standards for organizations to
    improve their care for patients with pain.1
    For over a decade, experts had called for better
    assessment and more aggressive treatment, including the use of opioids.2
    Many doctors were
    afraid to prescribe opioids despite a widely cited article suggesting that addiction was rare when
    opioids were used for short-term pain.3
    Education, guidelines, and advocacy had not changed
    practice, and leaders called for stronger methods to address the problem.4-7 The standards were
    based on the available evidence and the strong consensus opinions of experts in the field."


    These standards permit the review of Dr. Moore's chart to determine whether she was appropriately treated.

    But it seems very odd to me that Somerby is so unwilling to accept Dr. Moore's word that she was treated with suspicion and that her complaints about pain were ignored. She was a physician herself and if Somerby has ever experienced severe pain, he will know that there is no mistaking it.

    Somerby's approach seems to be to (1) dismiss Dr. Moore's complaints as unverifiable and thus untrue until proven otherwise, (2) assert that no standard for pain treatment exist, (3) assert that no one can know what happened to Dr. Moore during her first hospital visit, (4) assert that because of 1-3, Dr. Moore must be disbelieved and therefore Dr. Crear-Perry is also wrong and working from racial storyline.

    This is ridiculous and I believe it illustrates Somerby's own bigotry and misogyny (there is a history of women's complaints being dismissed by physicians, as well as racial bias). Somerby illustrates this problem with his own behavior, his belief that black women's complaints must be imaginary, manufactured and reflect storyline, not reality. With Somerby as the arbiter of what must and must not be accepted as true.

  2. Pain is being called "the 5th vital sign". Hospitals have procedures in place to assess and monitor just as they do blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. Asking the patient is only part of that assessment. Blood pressure and heart rate increase when someone is in pain, and they usually show facial expressions and physical rigidity and guarding when in pain. This isn't as subjective as Somerby wishes to make it seem.

    Note that the first hospital apologized to Dr. Moore. That suggests that their own internal review supported her complaints. How does Somerby account for that? Mostly, he disappears it from his consideration.

    "Dr. Moore wrote in an update on Facebook that she eventually spoke with the hospital system’s chief medical officer, who assured her that she would get better care and that diversity training would be held. She got a new doctor, and her pain was being managed better, she wrote."

    This means that the hospital agreed with her own complaint about her initial treatment.

  3. Somerby seems to have a habit of claiming that "no one knows" or "it is impossible to tell" or "anything is possible" whenever he encounters something he doesn't want to accept as true. That isn't how thinking people deal with "inconvenient" truths. His friend Al should have taught him that.

  4. Bob,
    As a medical doctor Dr. Moore would know more than 99% of us if she was adequately treated.
    I'll take her word over yours as you dither that "no one can know".
    She is a a Black woman. What the hell would she know?


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