Coronavirus: ‘Hero’ doctor leading fight against coronavirus in New York takes her own life

‘She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died,’ father says

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 28 April 2020 13:47
Coronavirus in numbers

A “hero” doctor treating coronavirus patients on the front line in New York has taken her own life.

Dr Lorna Breen, the 49-year-old medical director of a Manhattan emergency department, died by suicide in Virginia on Sunday.

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” her father told The New York Times.

Dr Philip Breen said his daughter had told him about the terrible impact the virus was having on patients, with some dying while still in the ambulance taking them to hospital.

“Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died,” he told the newspaper.

He said his daughter had caught the virus and returned to work after recovering for more than a week but was sent home. Her family then brought her to stay in Charlottesville, Virginia, he added.

Police said Dr Breen was taken to hospital on Sunday, where she “succumbed to self-inflicted injuries”.

”Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic,” Chief RaShall Brackney, of Charlottesville police department, said.

“On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors.”

She added: “Personal protective equipment can reduce the likelihood of being infected, but what they cannot protect heroes like Dr Lorna Breen, or our first responders against is the emotional and mental devastation caused by this disease.”

Dr William Jaquis, the president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said: “The impossibility of the situation in many of our hospitals leaves us deeply wounded.” He called Dr Breen “a hero who despite having Covid-19 still thought of her patients and her team”.

Dr Breen was the medical director at the New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital’s emergency department.

Some 57,100 people had been taken to hospital with Covid-19 in New York state as of Tuesday - the largest figure across any US state, according to John Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, more than 17,500 people have died in New York City to date.

According to the BBC, New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital said in a statement: “Dr Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the UK’s national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area

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