Skip to main content

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

By Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
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
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT