Top ER doctor who treated coronavirus patients in New York City dies by suicide

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” said the father of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, who worked at a Manhattan hospital hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A top emergency room doctor at a major Manhattan hospital died by suicide Sunday, according to her father.

Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview.

Her father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.

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

Philip Breen said his daughter had contracted the coronavirus but had gone back to work after recuperating for about a week and a half. The hospital sent her home again, before her family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville, he said.

It was not clear why Lorna Breen would have taken her own life. She did not have a history of mental illness, her father said. But he said that when he last spoke with her, she seemed detached, and he could tell something was wrong. She had described to him an onslaught of patients dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.

“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” he said.

He added: “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Angela Mills, head of emergency medical services at many NewYork-Presbyterian campuses, including Allen, sent an email to hospital staffers Sunday night informing them of Lorna Breen’s death. The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not mention a cause of death. Mills, who could not be reached for comment, said in the email that the hospital was deferring to the family’s request for privacy.

“A death presents us with many questions that we may not be able to answer,” the email read.

NewYork-Presbyterian Allen is a 200-bed hospital at the northern tip of Manhattan that at times had as many as 170 patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths at the hospital, according to an internal document.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resourcesfor a list of additional resources.

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