Brazilian doctor charged with 7 murders, may have killed 300: investigator

Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:39pm EDT
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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian doctor who was charged with killing seven patients to free up beds at a hospital intensive care unit may have been responsible for as many as 300 deaths, according to a Health Ministry investigator.

Prosecutors said Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza and her medical team administered muscle relaxing drugs to patients, then reduced their oxygen supply, causing them to die of asphyxia at the Evangelical Hospital in the southern city of Curitiba.

De Souza, a 56-year-old widow, was arrested last month and charged with seven counts of aggravated first degree murder. Three other doctors, three nurses and a physiotherapist who worked under De Souza have also been charged with murder.

Prosecutors for the state of Parana said wiretaps of De Souza's phone conversations revealed that her motive was to free up hospital beds for other patients.

"I want to clear the intensive care unit. It's making me itch," she said in one recording released to Brazilian media. "Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life," she added in the same phone call.

De Souza's lawyer, Elias Mattar Assad, said investigators had misunderstood how an intensive care unit works and she would prove her innocence.

More cases are expected to emerge as investigators comb through 1,700 medical records of patients who died in the last seven years at the hospital, where De Souza headed the intensive care unit.

"We already have more than 20 cases established, and there are nearly 300 more that we are looking into," the chief investigator assigned by Brazil's Health Ministry, Dr. Mario Lobato, said on Globo TV's Fantastico program on Sunday.   Continued...

A view is seen of Hospital Evangelico where doctor Virginia Soares de Souza is accused of having intentionally killed up to 300 patients to free up hospital beds, in Curtiba, March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer