Skip to main content

Brazilian doctor killed 7 patients to free up hospital beds, police say

By Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Fri March 29, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A group of doctors allegedly altered oxygen levels for patients
  • Police: The doctors also administered lethal doses of medication
  • Seven other health care professionals have been charged in the case

(CNN) -- A Brazilian doctor appeared in court for allegedly killing seven patients to free up hospital beds in the southeast city of Curitiba.

Virginia Helena Soares de Souza recruited a group of doctors to help administer lethal doses of anesthetics, sedatives and painkillers, according to authorities.

In addition, the group allegedly altered oxygen levels for patients, leading to deaths by asphyxiation, police said.

Seven other health care professionals have been charged in the case.

Prosecutors allege de Souza pulled the plug on victims against the wishes of patients and their families, and in so doing broke the law. She did that to free up beds in the ICU and clear up the "clutter" the patients were causing, according to police.

De Souza was arrested in February, but was later released until trial. Her court appearance Wednesday is part of mandated monthly appearances to avoid going back to jail.

Investigators say between 2006 and 2013, de Souza ordered medical professionals working under her at an intensive care unit to alter medication and oxygen levels.

In an interview with CNN affiliate TV Globo, Mario Lobato, the doctor tasked by the health ministry to investigate the case, said the number of deaths could be much higher.

He said his team is analyzing medical charts of more than 1,700 patients and interviewing more doctors.

During the seven years the incidents occurred, in cases where de Souza did not prescribe the drugs herself, she ordered other doctors to change mechanical ventilation devices, according to authorities. She allowed them access to medical records to issue prescriptions in her name, police said.

De Souza has pleaded not guilty.

Her lawyer, Elias Mattar Assad, said she will prove that her orders in the ICU were backed and justified by medical literature. Lobato, however, said some of the patients were awake and conscious moments before the drugs were administered.

CNN affiliate TV Record reported that the investigation began a year ago. In telephone recordings made with the consent of the justice department, de Souza ordered other medical doctors and employees to shut down some ventilation devices.

Euthanasia is considered a crime in Brazil.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT