German Nurse Linked to 29 Euthanasia Deaths at Hospital

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

German Nurse Linked to 29 Euthanasia Deaths at Hospital Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 1, 2005

Kempten, Germany ( — A German nurse has been linked to the euthanasia deaths of at least 29 patients, according to an investigation by authorities. The nurse has admitted to giving lethal injections to 16 elderly patients at a local hospital and is likely responsible for 13 more.

Herbert Pollert, the lead prosecutor, said autopsies have been performed on 42 former patients at a hospital in the Bavarian town of Sonthofen and he has sufficient evidence to charge the 26 year-old male nurse.

The nurse is in jail awaiting trial on six counts of murder, 22 counts of manslaughter and one case of violating German law against assisted suicide.

Albert Muelle, a lead police investigator, told the Associated Press that all of the deaths were of patients older than 75 with the exception of two severely ill women in their 40s.

Muelle said the nurse has claimed the patients’ deaths were all mercy killings.

"He said he wanted to save the patients senseless suffering," Muelle told AP.

However, autopsy reports show at least six of the patients were not terminally ill, which prompted the murder charges in those cases. According to Pollert, some of the manslaughter charges may be upgraded to murder charges when more information about the patients in those cases becomes available.

The nurse used a mixture of a sedative and muscle relaxant to kill the patients, and the drug cocktail would have taken only five minutes to induce death, according to the AP report.

Police became suspicious of the nurse when drugs at the hospital turned up missing and when the deaths of the patients coincided with the shifts the nurse worked. Investigators later found unsealed vials of drugs at his home.