(TMU) — In the latest tragic example of the horrendous burden that the coronavirus pandemic is having on medical workers, a top emergency room doctor in New York City died by suicide on Sunday.
Dr. Lorna M. Breen was the medial director of the NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. On Sunday, she died while staying with her family in Charlottesville, Virginia, her father told New York Times.
Her father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, has some idea of why she may have taken her own life—and the devastating scenes of the death and suffering among COVID-19 patients which she had described in recent weeks were a likely contributing factor.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he told the paper.
While she herself had contracted SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes the disease COVID-19—she attempted to return to work after recuperating for a week and a half. The hospital quickly sent her home before Breen’s family convinced her to stay with them in Charlottesville, her father said.
Lorna Breen apparently had no history of mental illness, her father said. However, in a recent conversation between the two she seemed detached, raising her dad’s worries that something was wrong.
She also recounted nightmarish scenes of “an onslaught” of patients dying just as soon as their ambulances arrived. Philip Breen explained:
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line.
“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 an email to hospital staffers sent Sunday night, head of emergency medical services at the NewYork-Presbyterian hospital system Dr. Angela Mills said:
“A death presents us with many questions that we may not be able to answer.”
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on doctors and nurses around the world in the months since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, both in terms of pushing the capacity of hospitals toward or past the breaking point or doing the same to medical workers’ mental health limits.
Doctors and nurses across the U.S. have admitted that while the COVID-19 crisis has helped them feel more dedicated than ever to their profession and their vows to protect patients, it has caused a mental health crisis for medical workers.
It has also accentuated frustrations over a lack of personal protective gear, a fear of spreading the disease to their families, and a nagging sense that they are unable to do enough for patients.
Negative thoughts and feelings of despondency have also been enhanced by extremely long and exhausting shifts at the hospital and a deep sadness over the deaths that they have had to witness.
Italian hospital doctors’ union leader Carlo Palermo told Associated Press also confirmed that two nurses had committed suicide due to the emotional trauma resulting from their front-line work. Fighting back tears, Palermo said:
“It’s [an] indescribable condition of stress.
“I can understand those who look death in the eye every day, who are on the front lines, who work with someone who maybe is infected, then a few days later you see him in the ICU or die.”
The NewYork-Presbyterian Allen is a 200-bed hospital located in Manhattan that has had as many as 170 COVID-19 patients at a time. There were 59 patient deaths at the hospital as of April 7, according to an internal document acquired by The Times.
According to the most recent data, there have been roughly 160,000 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in New York City’s five boroughs and 12,287 deaths. For weeks now, the city has been the epicenter of the outbreak sweeping across the United States.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.