Doctor dies of coronavirus complications, but his life's work will help fight COVID-19

An influential doctor who spent decades studying and treating lung conditions has died of acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, caused by COVID-19,University of California, San Francisco doctors say.

John F. Murray, a UCSF Emeritus Professor of Medicine, died at the age of 93 in Paris on March 24, according to an emailed announcement to department of medicine staff.

Murray was a key figure in defining, understanding and treating ARDS. "Sadly and ironically," he died of respiratory failure caused by that condition, the email signed by seven doctors says.

ARDS is a common killer among critically ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The new virus often targets the lungs and can cause respiratory problems including bronchitis and pneumonia. In a small number of severe cases, ARDS develops.

Murray was instrumental in redefining the medical community's approach to the treatment of lung diseases and helped lead a surge of new doctors to the field, Philip Hopewell told USA TODAY. 

Hopewell, former chief of the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Pulmonary Division, said when Murray entered pulmonary medicine, the field was mostly focused on a single disease: tuberculosis.

Murray's work broadening the field and training others helped pave the way for the modern ICU, multiple colleagues told USA TODAY. His work is proving integral to the treatment of the current pandemic, Hopewell said.

“He had a hand in almost every part of our field,” Courtney Broaddus told USA TODAY. Broaddus is editor-in-chief of a respiratory medicine textbook that bears Murray's name.

In addition to writing the influential book, "The Normal Lung," Murray was chief of pulmonary for more than two decades at San Francisco General Hospital. He was also a former president of The American Thoracic Society.

Murray was beloved for his bedside manner and respect for other health care professionals including nurses, Broaddus said. He was known for wearing a bow tie, partly out of consideration for patients – he didn't want his tie to drag over them as he attended.

Murray was a “sophisticated, worldly human being” who was living in an apartment in Paris with his wife, novelist Diane Johnson, at the time of his death, according to Morris Schambelan, who knew Murray for more than 50 years.

Among other accomplishments, Johnson is known for co-writing the screenplay for the classic Stanley Kubrick film "The Shining."

In addition to his wife, Murray is survived by two children, four stepchildren and 14 grandchildren.

Murray's age was among the factors that made him a high-risk patient for COVID-19, according to Hopewell.

“Coronavirus was new to him, just as it was to all of us,” Broaddus said.

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY.


News Related


Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment is premature and deadly. We have not defeated COVID.

Desperate for crowds and adoration, Trump has put his most fervent supporters at risk of getting a deadly disease. Future historians will be astonished. Read more »

NFLPA president JC Tretter says NFL is putting season, players at risk with its coronavirus approach

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said Tuesday the NFL is putting the 2020 season at risk with its coronavirus approach, calling on the league to better “prioritize player safety.” “Like many other... Read more »

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he tested positive for the coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity. Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and... Read more »

Venice Film Festival forges ahead amid COVID-19 pandemic with reduced lineup

The show will go on for the Venice Film Festival in September, but with a few modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said Tuesday that they are pushing forward with plans for... Read more »

Amtrak offers buy-one, get-one promotion on its sleeper trains amid COVID-19 — with a catch

Amtrak wants you to have sweet dreams the next time you travel — so much so that it’s sweetening the deal on its sleeper “roomettes.” The rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free discount... Read more »

Florida teen treated with hydroxychloroquine at home before dying of COVID-19, report says

FORT MEYERS, Fla. – The family of a 17-year-old Florida girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a... Read more »

Mookie Betts worried MLB coronavirus testing woes could prevent him from ever playing for Dodgers

During nearly four months away from the game, Mookie Betts said he “stayed away from baseball to keep myself sane.” It’s not hard to understand why. The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player... Read more »

Tom Hanks doesn’t get ‘how common sense has somehow been put into question’ with coronavirus

Read more »

Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As concern about the state order spread online, some school leaders said: Not so fast. As Florida educators puzzle over how to start the new academic year, Gov. Ron... Read more »

Texas surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases after 4th of July holiday weekend

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reached 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, just 17 days after crossing the 100,000 threshold, a figure that took the state nearly four months to hit. The grim milestone came... Read more »