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Top Manhattan ER doctor dies by suicide, cops and report say

NY-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan, where Dr. Lorna

NY-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan, where Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department, treated coronavirus patients. Credit: Google Maps

A Manhattan physician and coronavirus survivor who ran an emergency room swamped with COVID-19 died by suicide during a visit to her relatives in Virginia on Sunday, authorities and a news report said.

Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in the northern tip of Manhattan, died in Charlottesville, Va., where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview with The New York Times.

Breen’s online profile on the hospital’s website says she specialized in internal and emergency medicine. She had graduated from the Medical College of Virginia and completed her residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the profile said.

Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an email to the Times that police officers responded to a call seeking medical assistance on Sunday.

“The victim was taken to U.Va. Hospital for treatment but later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” Hawn said, according to the newspaper.

Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said in an interview with the Times that his daughter had no mental illness that he was aware of. But he said she did recently seem “detached,” making him suspect she was having problems coping with the fact the virus has so ravaged the city that patients were dying before they could be removed from ambulances arriving to the emergency room.

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” Breen told the Times.

The Times reported that Breen had contracted the disease and returned to work, but the hospital sent her home again, prompting her family to take her to Charlottesville.

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“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” Breen said to the newspaper. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”

In a statement, a hospital spokesman, Lucky Tran, 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,” according to the Times report.

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said in a news release: "Front-line health care professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic. On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors."

The news release also said: "The Charlottesville Police Department extends heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Dr. Breen during this difficult time."

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