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SIU Medicine releases statement on death of Earl Moore Jr.

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A Tragic Death and the Erosion of Trust

On January 10, the Sangamon County State’s Attorney announced that charges of first-degree murder were filed against two emergency medical technicians in the death of Earl Moore Jr., age 35.  According to the Sangamon County Coroner’s Office, Mr. Moore, an African American man, died from “compressional and positional asphyxia due to prone face-down restraint on a paramedic transportation cot/stretcher by tightened straps across the back.”  

The people of SIU Medicine join the family of Earl Moore Jr. in their sorrow, and we extend our deepest condolences. We all are devastated by the collective loss that our community is experiencing, and we recognize that there is no way to repair the harm that was inflicted on Mr. Moore and on a community still wrestling at the intersection of race, trauma and medical mistrust. 

We have worked hard to strengthen trust in our community because we know that health inequity is inextricably related to a deep-seated mistrust of the healthcare system – a mistrust that has arisen through a variety of social issues, the most prominent of which is systemic racism.  As we have worked to repair this divide with communities of color, health outcomes have improved. 

One example is the 3-year Enos Park Access to Care Collaborative, a program which has impacted 2,500 people through the collaborative effort of local healthcare organizations and groups that address the social determinants of health. Through this work, we learned together that the engagement of community leaders, the work of local residents as community health workers, and listening to those in need are key to the development of trust. This increase in trust had a greater impact than we anticipated, with many significant improvements in both medical and social outcomes.

The success of this project and others like it reinforce the importance of fostering relationships with those who have been historically marginalized, displaced, and oppressed by health systems and healthcare organizations. The death of Earl Moore Jr. from asphyxiation while in custody of the health community will harm this critical work, and the trauma experienced by people in our community as they hear of this tragedy and watch the body cam footage will erode trust and likely challenge the progress that has been made.

Harm can be both active and passive. Passive harm occurs when we witness violence and say nothing. Statements of condemnation are a first step in interrupting further harm. This is a way that we collectively name the injury and call out the behavior that led to it.  Statements like this and others that will be made in the days and weeks ahead are only the first step. They must be followed by meaningful and sustained actions to build greater equity and to strengthen trust in the healthcare system in our community. 

Our organizations will continue to care for our community and develop trust through community outreach and forums on health inequities. We will continue to build on our internal antiracism and anti-oppression work through our educational programs, trauma-responsive leadership development and culture change in response to the needs of our community, our patients, and ourselves. And we stand ready to support healthcare workers across the community who seek resources and training to address historic and present harms within our community.  

Let us all join the family of Earl Moore Jr. in mourning his death and recommit ourselves to develop the community we all long to live in—one that values the inherent dignity and worth of each person.

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