‘She Tried to Do Her Job, and It Killed Her’: NYC Emergency Room Doctor Takes Own Life

By Keya Vakil

April 27, 2020

“Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was,” her father told the Times. “She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital that was inundated with coronavirus patients took her own life on Sunday, the New York Times reported

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

Dr. Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said his daughter had been overwhelmed by the suffering she saw in treating coronavirus patients. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he told the Times.

A spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department told the Times that officers had responded to a call for medical assistance and transported the victim to UVA University Hospital, where she “later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries.”

Dr. Breen, 49, had contracted the coronavirus herself, but had returned to work after recovering for about a week and a half, only to have the hospital send her home again. Her family then intervened and brought her to Charlottesville.

She did not have a history of mental illness, her father said, but he added that she had seemed detached the last time they spoke and he could tell something was wrong. She had previously told him about the staggering number of patients who died before they could even be taken out of ambulances. 

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

New York City has been devastated by the coronavirus, and more than 17,500 people, or one in every 480 residents of the city, have died of COVID-19. New York-Presbyterian Allen is a 200-bed hospital that has had hundreds of patients with COVID-19 come through its doors. As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths due to coronavirus at the hospital, according to an internal document obtained by the Times.

Dr. Breen’s father said his daughter was a victim of the virus as well. 

“Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was,” he told the Times. “She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/ for a list of additional resources.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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