In a shocking example of the psychic toll that those fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak endure, a top emergency room doctor who treated coronavirus patients at a hospital in Manhattan has committed suicide, the New York Times reports.
Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Virginia on Sunday, where she was staying with family, according to her father who discussed her death with the Times.
Her father said she had described to him "devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients," the NYT reported.
"She tried to do her job, and it killed her," he said.
Breen's father, also an MD, said his daughter had contracted the virus, but had gone back to work after recuperating for about a week and a half. Then, the hospital sent her home again, but at this point her family moved to bring her back to Charlottesville, Va.
Breen, 49, had no history of mental illness, but when she last spoke with her father, she reportedly described a horrifying onslaught of patients found DOA in ambulances, all of them COVID-19 patients.
Her father asked the NYT to "make sure [Breen] is treated like a hero," since she died doing her job and protecting this country from a devastating health care epidemic.
"She was truly in the trenches of the front line," he said. "She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died."
Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told the NYT that Dr. Breen was well-respected and well-liked in their hospital system.
"You don’t get to a position like that at Allen without being very talented," he said.
The coronavirus has presented unusual mental health challenges for emergency physicians throughout New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States. As the paper added, while ER doctors are inured to treating patients will all kinds of grisly injuries, they're not accustomed to being at risk of infection themselves, or of passing it to their colleagues.