Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, are entrusted with the care of their patients and are expected to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards. However, there have been instances where some medical professionals have betrayed this trust by using their position to harm their patients. In some cases, medical professionals have even been found to be serial killers, causing the deaths of multiple patients over an extended period. This article will explore some of the most infamous cases of medical professionals who were found to be serial killers1.
One of the most notorious cases of a medical professional turned serial killer is that of Harold Shipman, a British doctor who was convicted of murdering 15 of his patients but is believed to have killed up to 250 people. Shipman was a trusted family doctor who would often visit his patients at their homes, where he would administer lethal doses of the painkiller diamorphine. He was able to evade detection for many years, despite suspicions from colleagues and family members of his patients. It was only after a lengthy investigation that Shipman was finally caught and sentenced to life in prison in 2000. Shipman’s case is often cited as an example of how a medical professional’s position of trust and authority can be used to carry out heinous crimes2.
Another case that shocked the medical community was that of nurse Charles Cullen, who was convicted of murdering 29 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals. Cullen, who worked as a nurse for over 15 years, would administer lethal doses of medication to his patients, often using a drug called digoxin. He was eventually caught and sentenced to life in prison in 2003. Cullen’s case highlighted the importance of monitoring healthcare professionals’ actions and conducting thorough background checks to prevent individuals with a history of misconduct from working in healthcare3.
In Canada, nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer was convicted of killing eight elderly patients in Ontario between 2007 and 2014. Wettlaufer would administer insulin overdoses to her patients, leading to their deaths. She was eventually caught after confessing to her crimes in 2016 and was sentenced to life in prison. Wettlaufer’s case led to calls for stricter regulations and oversight of healthcare workers to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future4.
These cases are not isolated incidents. Studies have shown that healthcare professionals are more likely to commit murder than other professionals, with an estimated 1 in 10 serial killers being healthcare workers. The reasons for this are complex and not fully understood, but factors such as access to medication, knowledge of medical procedures, and a sense of power and control may play a role.
It is essential to note that the vast majority of medical professionals are dedicated to their patients’ well-being and uphold the highest ethical and professional standards. However, the cases discussed in this article serve as a reminder that we must remain vigilant and take appropriate measures to prevent harm to patients.
In conclusion, the cases of medical professionals who have been found to be serial killers are shocking and tragic5. They demonstrate how individuals in positions of trust and authority can use their power to carry out heinous crimes6. Healthcare professionals play a vital role in society, and it is crucial that we take steps to prevent the small minority of individuals who betray that trust from causing harm. This can include measures such as background checks, regular monitoring of healthcare workers, and reporting any suspicious behavior to authorities.
- Barnett, W. S., & Sperry, L. (2008). Serial murder of healthcare providers: a literature review and discussion. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53(6), 1363-1368.
- Hickey, E. W. (2013). Serial murderers and their victims (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
- Koehler, S. A. (2006). Crime profiles of serial killers: Mapping the motivations of female serial killers. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 21(1), 62-76.
- Morse, S. J., & Morse, E. W. (2015). Serial murder: An examination of motive, method, and means. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 60(5), 1194-1201.
- National Institute of Justice. (n.d.). Serial murder. Retrieved from https://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/serial-murder/Pages/welcome.aspx
- Salfati, C. G., & Pareja, M. (2014). Characteristics of health care serial killers: A systematic review. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 59(6), 1495-1502.