SÃO PAULO, Brazil — A Brazilian doctor who was charged with killing seven patients may have murdered up to 300 patients in an attempt to free up hospital beds.
Prosecutors said Virginia Soares de Souza and her medical team administered muscle relaxing drugs to patients and then reduced their oxygen supply, causing them to die of asphyxia at Curitiba's Evangelical Hospital.
Wiretaps of the doctor's phone conversations revealed what her motive was for killing her intensive care unit patients.
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"I want to clear the intensive care unit. It's making me itch," she said in one recording. "Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life," she added in the same phone call.
Lead investigator on the case Mario Lobato said that De Souza had "played God" in deciding which patients should die in order to make room in the hospital for others.
"There are 20 cases which have already been closed, and we have nearly 300 cases still open which we are looking at," said Lobato. "In each case, the testimony of people who worked inside the hospital confirmed what we have found on the patient records."
Lobato said in one case a patient asked a nurse for a cup of water and was dead by the time she returned.
One of the patients De Souza is accused of killing is Ivo Spitzer, who had been on life support and died in January. De Souza allegedly reduced the oxygen he was receiving from 45 percent to the minimum 21 percent, a level at which no one would survive. Records also showed that Spitzer died an hour after receiving a muscle relaxant called Pavulon, which can be used to allow a life support machine to control a patient's respiration. The drug can also be fatal and is used in most lethal injections.
If prosecutors are able to prove that De Souza killed 300 patients, she would be considered one of the world's worst serial killers, rivaling the case of Harold Shipman, the English doctor found guilty of killing at least 215 patients.