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Brazilian doctor accused of mass murdering as many as 300 - in order to free up beds

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When nurses and doctors are linked to serial murder, it's usually due to a "God complex" where the medical practitioner wants to bring the patient to the brink of death - and then save them in the nick of time. When such attempts fail, hastily scribbled medical reports are used to cover their tracks. In the case of Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza of Curitiba, Brazil, the reason appears to be more pragmatic. She and cohorts are accused of killing terminally ill patients in order to free up beds.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The 56-year-old De Souza is charged in the murder of seven patients, but may be linked to as many as 300 killings. De Souza worked in the intensive care unit at Evangelical Hospital, alongside three other doctors, three nurses and a physiotherapist - all accused of similar charges.    
   
According to Brazil's health ministry, De Souza is suspected in the murder of seven patients by administering "drug cocktails" along with tampering of their respirators.

Prosecutors say De Souza and her accomplices gave muscle relaxing drugs to patients, and then reduced their oxygen supply, causing them to die of asphyxia.

De Souza was arrested last month and charged with seven counts of aggravated first degree murder. Her seven coworkers likewise all face murder charges.

Prosecutors for the state of Parana said wiretaps of De Souza's phone conversations revealed that her motive was to free up hospital beds for other patients.

"I want to clear the intensive care unit. It's making me itch," she said in one recording. "Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life," she added in the same phone call.

Her lawyer said investigators had misunderstood how an intensive care unit works and that he would prove her innocence.

More cases are expected to emerge as investigators comb through 1,700 medical records of patients who died in the last seven years at the hospital, where De Souza headed the intensive care unit.

"We already have more than 20 cases established, and there are nearly 300 more that we are looking into," the chief investigator assigned by Brazil's Health Ministry, told reporters.

If prosecutors prove that De Souza killed 300 patients, this could be one of the world's worst medical serial killings, rivaling the notorious case of Harold Shipman, the English doctor who was found to have killed at least 215 patients.

The deaths all occurred under similar circumstances: a muscle relaxant such as Pancuronium was administered; increasing the patients' dependence on artificial respiration; then the oxygen supply was reduced, causing death by asphyxia.

Prosecutors said De Souza felt "all powerful" running the intensive care unit homicide, to the point where she "had the power to decree the moment when a victim would die," and in some instances gave instructions to end the life of a patient by telephone to members of her medical team, according to documents detailing the charges.

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