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Monday, August 28, 2017

Another male nurse serial killer

I pointed out in April 2016 that it was striking how many of the most prolific serial killers were male nurses.

Another one has just popped up. From the ABC News article which appeared today, "German prosecutors believe nurse killed at least 84 people":

A male nurse who was convicted of killing patients in Germany with overdoses of heart medication is now believed to have killed at least 86 people — and the true scale of the killings could be even larger, investigators said Monday.

Many of the deaths could have been prevented if health authorities had acted more quickly on their suspicions, said Johann Kuehme, police chief in the northwestern city of Oldenburg.

Niels Hoegel, now 40, was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders at a hospital in the northwestern town of Delmenhorst. He was sentenced to life in prison. But prosecutors have long said they believe he killed many more people, last year putting the figure at 43 at least.

The crimes came to light after Hoegel was convicted of attempted murder in another case. Authorities subsequently investigated hundreds of deaths, exhuming bodies of former patients in Delmenhorst and nearby Oldenburg.

Kuehme said Monday that authorities have now unearthed evidence of 84 killings in addition to the ones for which Hoegel was convicted. The number of actual killings is likely higher because some possible victims were cremated, making it impossible to gather evidence, Kuehme added.

"Eighty-four killings ... leave us speechless," Kuehme told reporters. "And as if all that were not enough, we must realize that the real dimension of the killings by Niels H. is likely many times worse..."

He faulted local health authorities for being slow to act.

"If the people responsible at the time, particularly at the Oldenburg clinic but also later in Delmenhorst, hadn't hesitated to alert authorities — for example police, prosecutors —" Hoegel could have been stopped earlier, Kuehme said.

Authorities are already pursuing criminal cases against former staff at the two facilities.

Hoegel worked at the Oldenburg hospital from 1999 to 2002 and in Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005.

Kuehme said other medical workers at Oldenburg were aware of an elevated number of resuscitations, and initial indications of possible wrongdoing by the nurse in Delmenhorst emerged as early as April 2003.

During his trial, Hoegel had said he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them.

He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg....

Hoegel's killings follow a familiar pattern. First, Hoegel's coworkers, like the coworkers of several other serial killing nurses, saw that a lot of deaths seemed to be happening around him, but didn't jump to the obvious conclusion. Maybe they figured, oh no, Niels wouldn't do something like that; or maybe they just didn't want to get in trouble themselves in case he was innocent. But it seems in every case of nurses who were serial killers, the coworkers and sometimes even hospital administrators had their suspicions long before they contacted authorities. 

Note that Hoegel said that he "enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them." This, too, is a fairly common phenomenon. His motive wasn't necessarily to kill these patients, it was to be able to resuscitate them and therefore appear a hero. He enjoyed basking in the admiration and gratitude of the patients and their relatives afterwards. But as a sociopath, if patients happened to die while he set up a scenario in which he could appear the hero, it didn't bother him in the least. (If it had, he would have stopped doing it.) 

This is not dissimilar to those firemen/arsonists who've been convicted of setting fires so they could then put them out and appear the hero.

Hoegel's picture wasn't included with the article, but I found it elsewhere:

(He looks like an antifa type to me.) Here's another picture of him, evidently before he was caught:

Hoegel must have thought his Vandyke beard made him look stylishly devilish. Most people who saw him at the time must have thought him just pudgy and epicene. If they'd only known.....

Only a small percentage of nurses are male, yet it seems that at least half of the nurse serial killers are male. Of course, only a tiny fraction of male nurses have turned out to be killers.

Still, it's hard not to notice the correlation. 


GT said...

I have a hard time not blaming the hospital administrators in cases that go on for so long. The Administrators are more worried about the reputation of their institution and mitigating lawsuits than doing the right thing. In my mind they are more concerned with just making everything "go away" with the least amount of exposer.

The Genene Jones case is a prime example of administrators allowing a person to resign or be forced out on a minor infraction versus doing to right thing and bringing in some sort of official medical review board or even the police to research the high level of cardiac arrests/ deaths.

John Craig said...

GT --
Wow, I hadn't even heard of Genene Jones before. Yes, the hospital in that case should have been more liable given that they were interested in nothing more than covering their own behinds.

I think most hospitals are not that bad, but you're right, their own self-interest is always going to loom large in their decisions.

Not Dave said...

Until you mentioned firefighters I was thinking just that. Having grown up in southern California it's a phenomenon I'm more familiar with.

My niece suffered a brain aneurysm last May and was treated at the local children's hospital (they saved her life). I was able to visit her that first week and see the awesome staff working 24/7 to keep her stable and alive while she was in a coma following brain surgery. Thankfully that's the more common occurrence in every hospital. My niece went home in early July just 2 months after her incident. She started the 6th grade yesterday.

Sociopths are hidden everywhere but if you recognize the signs they're relatively easy to spot. Problem is very few people acknowledge sociopathy at all and don't recognize the warning signs. How could a nurse, fireman, etc, be a bad person?

John Craig said...

Not Dave --
That's exactly right: sociopaths are skilled at hiding in plain sight. And often, they're hard to spot, even if you know what to look for, if you only get a small snapshot of them. You have to watch them over time to really know what they're about, and it's only their coworkers who get that view. And they often like to have jobs which make them appear none, or heroic, which can make it even more difficult.

And even for coworkers, if they're not familiar with the signs, and most people aren't, they're all too willing to give the sociopath the benefit of the doubt, something else sociopaths bank on.

I agree about nurses in general, I'd say well over 90% of those I've met have been great.

Rona said...

That number of murders is staggering. When I see what kind of damage one individual can inflict of society I'm sometimes surprised things are not worse. Hopefully hospital administrators will be sentenced as well. It's impossible to not notice a surge in deaths involving a single nurse. What doesn't make sense is, even if the hospital was only concerned with avoiding scandal and lawsuits, it would have made more sense to fire him, than pretend nothing odd is happening.

What he does is sort of like gambling, bringing a man to a brink of death and then attempting resuscitation uncertain of the outcome. Must be more exciting gambling with human life than any amount of money.

Yes, his physiognomy is unsurprising. I'm not sure if you covered it, but there was an article about Antifa protesters in Germany. Mostly unemployed and over 90% live with parents.

John Craig said...

Rona --
It is a staggering number of murders, though it was evidently spread over two hospitals, and I'd guess that Hoegel, like a lot of these nurse serial killers, liked working with geriatric patients because doing so allowed him to ply his trade more unnoticed, as geriatrics are expected to die more frequently anyway.

And yes, it must be exciting.

I hadn't seen that article about the Antifa protesters; that's interesting, but not surprising.