Mortiz Erhardt, 21, was approaching the end of his 7-week internship at the London offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch when he died after working 72 hours without sleep. Erhardt’s untimely passing has prompted questions regarding the safety and practicality of the workaholic culture of city-based financial firms.

Erhardt’s official cause of death has yet to be determined. A spokesperson for Bank of America has stated that the company is waiting for facts to emerge about their former intern's death prior to examining the policies in place for their current internship programs.

Critics of Bank of America, scandalized by Erhardt’s death, are calling for immediate action, operating under the assumption that the 21-year-old’s passing could have been prevented had his internship been managed differently. "Exploitation of youth is unacceptable. Tragic death of M.Erhardt is a reminder of what internships should not be about," tweeted European Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor.

Outrage seems to be a fitting response for such a tragic incident. However, former interns of banking corporations are hesitant to put too much blame on the bank. Instead, some are pointing the finger on ambition.


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"People push themselves because they want an offer with the bank and the chance of a great career and great money," a former intern, who now works for a major US bank, told MSN. "This is a golden path."

"If you can follow instructions then they will like you and that often means staying very, very late doing ridiculous things,” said another former intern – one who no longer works in the industry. “It's partly a culture of intern trying to impress," said the former intern.

Medically speaking, it's possible that Erhardt's lack of sleep and the rigors of the internship led to his death, regardless of whether one believes the company should carry the most blame for his passing.

“Although we don’t know for sure what caused such a tragic death, we know that working excessive hours, especially night shifts, is an extra risk to health,” cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra told The Independent. “Last year the BMJ [medical journal] published the largest and most comprehensive review of over two million people concluding that those working shifts and especially night shifts were at significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s probably related to a combination of sleep deprivation and added stress.”

– Chelsea Regan

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