As I write this blog, police are hunting a serial killer believed to be responsible for the death of at least two, and perhaps as many as 48, murders in a Japanese hospital. After two elderly men died within two days of each other on the same hospital floor, it was discovered that their IV lines had been spiked with bleach, the same disinfectant used to clean the hospital ward. Investigators subsequently found 10 unused intravenous bags (out of a total of 50) that had holes in the rubber seals and were contaminated with bleach, leading police to suspect the perpetrator may have medical knowledge and access to the floor in which these two men were housed.
Fears are growing that the problem is catastrophic after it emerged that 46 other patients have died on the same hospital floor since July 1. So far, no suspects have been named.
Who Is a Likely Suspect?
Taking what is known (or assumed) about the crime scene, in conjunction with what the healthcare serial killer literature says, here’s my best guess about the kind of person most likely to have committed these crimes:
The Bottom Line
When it comes to vulnerability, few things level the playing field more than being in the hospital. No matter or typical size, strength or stamina, for that period of time, we are completely at the mercy of the caretakers assigned to watch over us. Fortunately, the vast majority of medical professionals measure up to the enormous trust we place in them; for the past 14 years, we Americans have voted nursing as the most honest and ethical profession in the U.S.
Very rarely, one goes rogue. When it happens, coworkers are our first line of defense; 30% of healthcare serial killers are ultimately identified by a colleague. Hopefully, hospitals increasingly create a culture where it is okay for colleagues to speak up when something, or someone, seems wrong.