The father of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, an ER doctor who treated coronavirus patients, says doing her job ‘killed her’
An emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital has died by suicide, her family confirmed to the New York Times. She had spent recent weeks treating several coronavirus patients infected with COVID-19, but was recently staying with family in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Dr. Lorna Breen was the medical director of the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. A spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, Tyler Hawn, confirmed that officers responded to a call seeking medical assistance on Sunday. “The victim was taken to U.V.A. Hospital for treatment, but later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” Hawn tells the Times.
Dr. Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, tells the Times that caring for coronavirus patients ultimately took a heavy toll on his daughter — she often described in detail the scenes of those suffering with COVID-19 to her father. The BBC reports that New York accounts for 17,500 out of America’s coronavirus 56,000 deaths.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he said.
Her father said Dr. Breen had contracted the virus herself last month, but had gone back to work after recuperating for just under two weeks. The hospital where she worked, New York-Presbyterian Allen, sent her home again after returning. Her family then convinced her to come to stay with them in Charlottesville.
Dr. Breen’s father says his daughter didn’t have a history of mental illness, but was troubled by the last time he spoke with her. He tells the Times that she seemed “detached,” and it was apparent that something was wrong. He said she described scenes at the hospital where patients were dying before they could even be taken out of their ambulances to be treated.
NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia praised Dr. Breen’s efforts and job performance during the ongoing pandemic. “Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department,” the hospital said in a statement, per the Times. “Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time.”
Many colleagues described Dr. Breen in glowing terms. One of her co-workers said that Dr. Breen was always looking out for others, making sure her doctors had protective equipment or whatever else they needed. Even when she was home recovering from Covid-19, she texted her co-workers to check in and see how they were doing, the colleague said.
Her father also agrees that his daughter’s actions were nothing short of heroic, and hopes people reading about her story remember that. “She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” he said. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”