New York ER doctor who treated coronavirus patients dies by suicide

New York ER doctor who treated coronavirus patients dies by suicide

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Dr Lorna Breen worked at New York-Presbyterian Allen hospital and was ‘truly in the trenches’, her father said

New York-Presbyterian Allen hospital, where Dr Lorna Breen worked.

New York-Presbyterian Allen hospital, where Dr Lorna Breen worked.
Photograph: New York Rat/Alamy

A top emergency room doctor in New York who was working on the frontline trying to save coronavirus victims at the height of the pandemic and also suffered the disease herself has died.

Dr Lorna Breen’s family revealed that she took her own life on Sunday, her father, Dr Philip Breen, told the New York Times, overwhelmed by the pressure of her work.

She worked at New York-Presbyterian Allen hospital, a location hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

New York City accounts for more than 17,500 out of the US’s 56,000 coronavirus deaths as of Tuesday.

“She was truly in the trenches of the frontline,” her father said. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”

As head of the hospital’s emergency room department, Breen “brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging frontlines”, the hospital said in a statement.

Her father told the New York Times that she had been talking about how crushing the experiences were for her and other doctors on the medical frontlines, especially noting how hard it was not to be able to save Covid-19 patients.

The physician’s family also confirmed that Breen had previously contracted the coronavirus herself. She later went back to work after recuperating for about a week and a half.

While Breen was not known to have a history of mental illness, her father said she seemed “detached” when he last spoke with her. After the hospital sent her home again, her family intervened, bringing her to Charlottesville, Virginia, where her mother and sister live.

Outside of her work, Breen was described as a devout Christian who was incredibly close to her family. She was a salsa dancer, an avid skier and volunteered weekly at an assisted living home for the elderly.

Doctors are often responding to some of the most catastrophic events, but the coronavirus presents unusual mental health challenges for emergency physicians and their teams, especially in the country’s hardest-hit areas.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 300 physicians die by suicide each year.

Breen’s father pleaded for the public to “make sure she’s praised as a hero”.

“Because she was,” he said. “She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

  • In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email or In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found

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