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Nurses who kill their patients

Hospital and nursing home patients depend upon their nurses to render care to them when they are at their most vulnerable point. Far more than the doctors who issue orders to them, nurses are intimately involved in the hands-on care of their patients.

Most nurses enter the healing profession out of a desire to care for others and ease their suffering. But there is a subset of the nursing profession with far more nefarious motives.

Nurses who kill patients

The reasons why nurses turn into killers are varied and include a desire for:

  • power
  • attention
  • control

In a health care setting where nurses have unfettered access to their patients and can easily divert lethal pharmaceuticals to harm those whom they are trusted to heal, their murderous actions may at least initially remain undetected. Only when mounting deaths skew statistical averages may their misdeeds be seen as suspicious.

Exploiters of trust

In past decades, it was easier for malevolent nurses to get away with their carnage. After all, few patients and their family members expected the nurses to become angels of death. They placed their trust in their caregivers, as should be appropriate.

Technological developments have allowed better tracking of patient mortality rates, which, in turn, has allowed for earlier detection of nurses with lethal intentions. As published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, research was conducted on homicidal health care providers using 90 cases in 20 countries.

Researchers focused on prosecutions over a 36-year period. Of the 90 cases they reviewed, 54 defendants were convicted, with others pending. Methods used by nurses to dispatch patients included:

  • Suffocation
  • Injection of lethal substances
  • Equipment tampering
  • Poisoning

Of all the serial killers operating in the field of health care, both female and male nurses made up 86% of the total. In the aforementioned study, there were more than 2,000 suspicious deaths attributed to those who were confirmed to be involved in their patients' deaths.

Most avoidable patient deaths lack ill intent

While the above statistics are indeed alarming, most patient deaths that are avoidable are not attributed to murderous health care workers but to negligence by those tasked with patient care.

A nurse or other health care provider may make an error that proves fatal, e.g., administering the wrong dose of medicine to the wrong patient or removing a healthy organ instead of a diseased body part.

When nursing negligence occurs and you are affected or a loved one is killed, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses, injuries and other damages.

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