E.R. doctor who treated coronavirus patients dies by suicide, police say

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Dr. Lorna M. Breen (Chris Leary Photography)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (WJW) – Police in Charlottesville, Virginia say a New York City emergency room doctor has died of self-inflicted injuries.

In a news release posted on their website, Charlottesville police said they responded to a call for medical assistance on Sunday.

Dr. Lorna Breen was taken to a hospital where she died of her injuries.

“Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic,” Chief RaShall Brackney said in the news release. “On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors.” 

“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,” Brackney said.

According to the New York-Presbyterian website, Breen worked in the emergency room at Allen Hospital.

Her father told the New York Times his daughter was staying with family in Virginia.

Dr. Philip Breen said his daughter talked about the emotional toll of treating patients with coronavirus.

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he said.

Breen’s father told the New York Times his daughter had contracted the coronavirus but had gone back to work after recuperating.

He said the hospital sent her home again. That’s when family brought her to Charlottesville, he said.

According to her father, the 49-year-old did not have a history of mental illness. But he told the New York Times his daughter seemed “detached” and he could tell “something was wrong.”

“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 a statement published by the New York Times, the hospital said:

“Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department. 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.”

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In the video player below, a New York City doctor — who also recovered from coronavirus — shares what it’s like on the frontlines of the pandemic.

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