A New York City emergency room doctor who treated patients infected with the novel coronavirus has died by suicide, police said.
Dr. Lorna Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, was in Charlottesville, Virginia, when she died on Sunday. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment where she later succumbed to “self-inflicted injuries,” according to a press release from the Charlottesville Police Department.
“Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic,” Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said in a statement Monday. “On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors.”
“Personal protective equipment (PPE) can reduce the likelihood of being infected,” Brackney added, “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.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said his daughter had contracted COVID-19 herself and recovered. A week and a half after returning to work, the hospital sent her home and her “family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville,” the newspaper reported. She was staying with family at the time of her death.
Breen’s father told The New York Times that she had no history of mental illness but that, when he last talked to her, she seemed “detached.”
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” the elder Dr. Breen told the newspaper. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”