Lorna Breen, MD—hero physician dies by suicide →

Hero doctor dies by suicide, and yes, she’s a hero—and she deserves to be honored.

Lorna Breen, a top NYC doctor who recovered from Coronavirus, was in “excruciating” emotional pain watching so many patients die. With no history of mental illness, yet clearly traumatized, she succumbed to suicide on Sunday, April 26.

Some feel that honoring physician suicide victims alongside doctors who died from Covid is disrespectful to their losses. Yet acute respiratory distress and acute mental health distress due to Covid are both real medical conditions. Both are deadly. Both kill physicians.

PTSD among health professionals will claim more lives. I’ve spoken to thousands of distressed and suicidal doctors. They are not weak. They should not be punished by medical boards or hospitals for needing psychiatric help—a huge deterrent to care. Doctors are suffering and deserve our help, compassion, and respect.

Please join me today in ending the stigma by honoring Dr. Lorna Breen—a true hero.


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Honoring physician trainees lost to COVID-19 →

Dr. Christopher Firlit, age 37, a PGY6 senior oral maxillofacial surgery resident in Detroit, Michigan, was to graduate in 3 months. He developed a fever and his chief fellow drove him to Providence Hospital where he died on April 3 of suspected COVID-19. He was employed at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital. He leaves behind his wife and three children.

An Anesthesia Resident in New York City has been reported to have died of COVID-19. A mother, she leaves at least one child behind.

An Internal Medicine Resident in New York City has been reported to have died of COVID-19. A PGY1 male, age 26, with no underlying health conditions ended up on ecmo (a heart-lung by-pass machine) at Montefiore Medical Center where he died on April 3 from a catastrophic brain bleed, according to an ICU doctor. As an International Medical Graduate (IMG) from Pakistan, his visa is sponsored by his employer, reported to be Elmhurst Hospital (Mount Sinai Health System). Recently married, his spouse may now be deported.

It’s been more than two weeks. No media outlets have covered these New York resident physician deaths. Why? Hospitals are censoring doctors—threatening termination for breaching “media guidelines” if they speak to reporters. So physicians have asked me (in emails published with permission below) to honor our fallen physicians:

“I am a resident in NYC. We have heard of multiple resident doctor deaths in the past 2 days (outside of my hospital system). We have heard rumors of gag orders being placed, preventing any publicity around their deaths. It is unclear if they had access to PPE. Could you advise how to stop these resident deaths from remaining secrets when they deserve to be honored? Is there a news outlet we can talk to to publicize this? Please keep me anonymous. Thank you for your help.”

“I am sure others might have contacted you about this issue already because of all of the work you have done on the topic of resident/student deaths from suicide and how it’s not talked about. I am a member of a COVID-19 group on Facebook that has mentioned possibly 3 or 4 medical residents dying from COVID-19 in the last 7 days. In the news there has been one death acknowledged-—Dr Firlit from Detroit. I don’t know if there are actually 3 more young trainees who have succumbed to this but I work with residents/fellows/students and am hoping to prevent further devastating loss. Thank you.”

“Dr. Wible, I was wondering if you’ve been hearing about the eerie silence around resident physician deaths (and physician deaths in general) during the pandemic. It seems that every resident I’ve spoken to here on the East Coast knew within a day that 2 residents had died from COVID-19 after being on the frontlines, but our hospital administrators have been silent. In fact, I know a resident who tweeted a text screenshot from a friend who had heard the news, and is now being reprimanded by her department and was asked to delete the tweet. The most suspicious part of me is concerned that hospitals are working to keep these stories from getting out to prevent residents from losing morale. Or rather, from realizing more and more that we are being tossed around like possessions and thrown into a burning mess created by the government and hospital administrators’ failure to prepare. We don’t even matter enough to them to deserve hazard pay, like our colleagues in nursing are (rightfully) earning when they volunteer. In the same way physician suicides are covered up, I believe our deaths now on the frontlines are being minimized so as to keep us grinding away, unprotected by PPE or workers’ rights. Thank you for all your work in amplifying our voices, when people are losing their jobs and lives left and right.”

I’ve witnessed hospitals cover up physician deaths since 2012 when I began investigating why so many doctors were killing themselves inside our hospitals. For 8 years, I’ve been running a doctor suicide hotline. I’ve now amassed a registry of 1,473 doctor suicides. Root cause analysis reveals hazardous working conditions and human rights violations as the culprit. Predating the pandemic, medicine’s well-hidden physician suicide epidemic became the focus of a now newly released award-winning documentary—Do No Harm: Exposing the Hippocratic Hoax—by an Emmy-winning filmmaker. View the world premiere streaming live this Sunday, April 19 at DoNoHarmFilm.com.

I’m very familiar with censorship by medical institutions. Parents who lost children to suicide during medical training have been given honorary diplomas for signing nondisclosure agreements preventing them from speaking about their own child’s death. One mom told me she was offered hush money by the med school to keep quiet about her son’s suicide. Residents have been threatened with termination for speaking about their colleagues’ suicides.

Hospitals don’t want you to know about these hazardous working conditions that are killing doctors—and patients (especially during the pandemic).

I bet you didn’t know that:

1) New doctors are forced to work 28-hour shifts for less than minimum wage—and they’re the workhorses in our hospitals. After graduating medical school, residents must work up to 7+ years in hospitals, 80 hours weekly (some 100 or more) while severely sleep deprived leading to medical mistakes that have harmed—even killed patients. During the pandemic, residents have been forced to work even longer without hazard pay,

2) Hazardous working conditions cause new doctors to age six times faster than their non-medical peers. Scientific studies prove that residency leads to serious chromosomal damage and a weakened immune system that places new doctors at high risk for illness—including dying from COVID-19.

3) International Medical Graduates are most vulnerable to abuse. Hospitals bank on the fact that foreign doctors from poor countries can’t defend themselves. If they don’t submit to abuse, hospitals fire them and they’re deported. Without local friends and family IMG COVID-19 deaths are easier to hide. Without a local support system, many have no online obituary and no friends posting tributes on social media. Not to mention, how in the world will grieving family members overseas get their body shipped back with pandemic travel restrictions? Devastated families have no emotional (or financial) resources to defend themselves and their loved ones from the criminal practices of US hospitals.

4) Doctors with inadequate protective gear are infecting themselves—and their patients. Asking doctors to use the same mask all week is like asking a gynecologist to use the same speculum all week or asking a prostitute to use the same homemade condom (made out of a trash bag) all week.

5) New doctors with shattered immune systems and inadequate protective gear are inhaling large viral loads. Highest risk specialties include the three doctors honored here—Dr. Firlit, who performs oral maxillofacial surgery as well as anesthesiology residents responsible for intubations, and internal medicine residents running COVID ICUs. Doctors who refuse to submit to hazardous working conditions caring for COVID-19 patients, are fired.

6) When residents die from unsafe working conditions, hospitals should face wrongful death lawsuits. If you’re a resident physician, here’s how to protect yourself from hazardous working conditions. If you need help, please contact me here or join our free support group for medical trainees. If you know the names of residents who have died from COVID-19, please share (even anonymously) as these beautiful people who have sacrificed so much of their lives to help and heal others deserve to be honored, not thrown in a body bag and discarded like medical waste.

Thank you for caring about our healthcare heroes who have died.

NOTE: If anything I’ve written is incorrect please feel free to update me so I can update this with the truth (surprisingly challenging to find out the truth). This is my best guess based on all the people who have contacted me in the last two weeks. Thanks in advance for filling me in on if you know more . . . (there may be more deaths, who knows?)

Addendum 4/27/20: Identities of the two COVID-19 resident deaths remain unknown. One resident wrote me after publication: “So the person that died [IMG] had the same name as a resident at the hospital they were transferred from. (not sure where but either Coney, Elmhurst, Sinai). There was a lot of confusion, even the record here at Montefiore said that the person was a resident.” As of today I am aware of a new COVID-19-related doctor suicide (RIP Dr. Breen) and another doctor who died by suicide after a job fell through due to the pandemic.

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Daily Emotional Support Calls for Doctors ~ Join Us! →

To join us, please contact Dr. Wible here with a short description of your situation and she’ll send you a private link to join our call tonight. Check out:  How to defend yourself from hazardous working conditions  &  10 Emotional Stages of a Pandemic


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10 Emotional Stages of a Pandemic →

 


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How to end hazardous working conditions in hospitals (& protect yourself) →

I’ve been asked about medicolegal protection during the pandemic. Do you face liability from lack of PPE, rationing ventilators, working outside your scope of practice. How to manage administrative threats, retaliation, forced “volunteerism” without pay, and lack of supervision for medical trainees. I strongly advise documenting ALL hazardous working conditions and violations of your human rights by any medical institution that endangers you or your patients. Maintain documentation at home and when relevant—in the medical record.

Medical liability cases are won or lost on documentation. Without a comprehensive medical record, you can’t defend yourself. Protections of your rights may be lost if you fail to act within the statute of limitations. Do not naively assume things will get better. Do not naively trust politicians and promises that you are protected during a pandemic. Your career and future are on the line. TAKE ACTION NOW with these 11 strategies . . .

1. Document everything. Write a memo to yourself describing any interaction that makes you feel uncomfortable. Note the date and time and everyone present. Email it to yourself using a personal email address.

2. Record everything. Use your cell phone to audio record the abuser (remember many cell phone apps will turn off when you receive a phone call so use airplane mode). Alternatively, order a cheap keychain USB recording device to capture all interactions so you have detailed documentation of the encounter. PLEASE Note: In the United States crimes are legal to record. When in doubt, press record.

3. Forward all work emails to a personal HIPAA-compliant account. Medical professionals who receive harassing work emails or text messages may have their work accounts deactivated by their employer in an attempt to destroy incriminating evidence to protect an abuser. Safeguard confidential patient information and do not violate HIPAA.

4. Make at least two additional copies of all documentation. In addition to your personal computer, consider an online cloud storage option and send a USB drive to a trusted friend or family member to keep for you. Store one in a safe deposit box for added security.

5. Ask other residents or hospital employees if they are experiencing the same types of mistreatment and document their personal contact information in case other victims leave your medical institution and you need to reach them.

6. Many medical professionals don’t realize that the objective of Human Resources is to protect the company or hospital. They may pressure a victim to inappropriately confront a perpetrator or sign documents that could hurt their legal case. Keep copies of any paperwork presented to you. Never sign any documents under duress without the advice of your own attorney.

7. Document all internal efforts to report and resolve human rights violations at your medical institution. Include dates and times of your meetings with Human Resources or your ombudsman. Many academic medical centers have an ombudsman that acts as a confidential advocate. Most take their job seriously and may help you identify an attorney. Some break confidentiality.

8. Document meetings with potential attorneys and their advice. Hire an attorney with experience defending medical students, residents, and physicians, as law pertaining to each of these groups can be complex. Consider hiring a JD/MD (or DO) who understands personally the abuses of medical training. Many attorneys will work on contingency and only take a percentage of fees from a successful lawsuit.

9. Each time you are evaluated or hospitalized, immediately request a copy of your medical records. If you are obstructed in any way from receiving medical records within 30 days of your request, seek legal counsel. Medical institutions have been guilty of withholding and altering evidence.

10. Download copies of medical institution handbooks, employee contracts, and other documents related to your employment or education.

11. You have the right to a safe workplace. If your workplace is unsafe, unhealthful, or hazardous, file a confidential OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) complaint to trigger an on-site inspection by a compliance officer trained to protect workers and their rights. Then request a health hazard evaluation through NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). They will perform an assessment of physician work conditions and file a report with recommendations. Three employees are required to request a NIOSH evaluation. Your identity will remain confidential.

Questions? Need to talk? Contact me here.
Or review complete self-defense strategies here. Click on Amazon book cover to read chapters for free.

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