German nurse admits killing 30 patients

German nurse admits killing 30 patients
# 09 January 2015 02:51 (UTC +04:00)

The 38-year-old, identified only as Niels H, told the court-appointed psychiatrist that he had wanted to show off his “excellent” resuscitation skills. He is suspected of having killed 178 patients who were in his care at Delmenhorst hospital, near Bremen, in northern Germany, between 2003 and 2005.

The psychiatrist, Konstantin Karyofilis, told a court in Oldenburg that the accused had administered a cardiovascular drug by injecting it into the patients’ veins in order to orchestrate medical emergencies that would then require him to step in and resuscitate them in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

An overdose of the drug can lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia and a drop in blood pressure, causing a rapid decline in an already very sick patient.

Karyofilis said the accused admitted causing the deaths of 30 patients and said 60 others survived. Niels H felt “fully responsible” for the 30 deaths but denied any further killings.

A court spokesman said the statement by the expert was not legally considered a confession by the defendant, who has so far not spoken in court.

Prosecutors have argued that the nurse wanted to win the admiration of his colleagues and the gratitude of his patients and their families, who would consider him their saviour for having brought them back from the brink.

Until now Niels H had refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. A clinic investigation had only been able to say with any degree of certainty that he was responsible for 12 deaths.

Niels H, who worked in other hospitals and at a retirement home in Germany and also as a paramedic in his spare time, is already serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence, after being convicted of attempted murder in 2008. A colleague had discovered him giving a patient an overdose.

The files of all patients who have been in his care are now under review. The bodies of any patients whose cause of death were in any way considered to be unclear and who were subsequently buried rather than cremated are to be exhumed, investigators from the justice ministry of Lower Saxony have said.

Karyofilis said Niels H was aware that he had caused many people, including his patients and their families, “huge damage, suffering and anxiety”. He said the former nurse wanted it to be known that he was not “basking in the limelight” of his case. “This is not so. He is deeply ashamed,” he told the court.

Earlier, Otto Dapunt, a former head of heart surgery at the Oldenburg clinic, who worked with Niels H for almost three years, told the court that the nurse had participated with an “above average regularity” in cases where reanimation was necessary.

He said while he had never considered this to be suspicious as such – particularly as the nurse was regularly on call and often had to deal with serious cases – he had often found Niels H to be “overly zealous” in wanting to take care of the more critical patients.

He was also often unusually moved by the deaths of his patients, Dapunt said, recalling one occasion when the accused took two patients whgo had died to the morgue and returned in a “completely distraught state”.

“But he was factually competent, perhaps more competent than others,” Dapunt told the court.

The case continues.