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Yet another medical serial killer

Niels Högel: German ex-nurse admits killing 100 patients

A hundred victims, and it is not even the BBC’s top story.

Towards the end of the last century I visited a very nice elderly couple, the husband of whom was a retired doctor. I noticed a flyer or newsletter sitting on their kitchen table with a heading something like “Doctors against gun violence”. At that time Dr Harold Shipman had fairly recently been arrested and the sheer number of his victims – more than two hundred – was beginning to emerge. I could not help thinking that, given that the number of people Shipman had killed by medical means exceeded by a great margin the death toll of the two largest shooting mass murders that had then occurred in the UK, Dunblane and Hungerford, maybe there was scope for a rival pamphlet called “Gun owners against medical violence”. The thought remained unspoken, of course, and a good thing too. I was not usually so flippant about mass murder even in thought: after the Dunblane massacre of primary schoolchildren I had thought about Thomas Hamilton’s victims almost every day for two years or more. Shipman’s victims did not haunt me to nearly the same extent. The same seems true of the general public. No doubt much of that was because Shipman killed the old not the young. It is not that people do not care about elderly victims, but the instinct to protect children and thus to consider the murder of a child the worst of crimes is bred in the bone. But that does not entirely explain it. Another British medical serial killer, the nurse Beverley Allitt, did target babies and children, by giving them overdoses of insulin and potassium. She murdered four children between the ages of seven weeks and eleven years and attempted to murder several others. One of those she failed to kill, Katie Phillips, was left permanently brain damaged by her attentions. This was after Katie’s twin sister Becky had already been murdered by Allitt. Yet her deeds seem almost forgotten now.

Maybe it is time for that long unspoken thought to get an airing, and for better reasons than to keep score in competitive shroud-waving. I have come away from Wikipedia shocked at how many such“angels of death” there have been, how long they have got away with it, and how high their number of victims has been. Almost more chilling than the death counts is their uncertainty: Donald Harvey, United States, 57-87. Arnfinn Nesset, Norway, 27-138+. Charles Cullen, United States 35-400+. There are plenty more on that list. And it can be practically certain that there are yet more who appear on no list, because they are still killing now.

29 comments to Yet another medical serial killer

  • Bruce

    The death-cultists think nothing of slaughtering the very old and the very young. It is what they do.

    The “point” of Dunblane and Hungerford (Known wolves) was to use them as bloody hooks from which could be hung a whole raft of “pre-positioned” legislation and regulations that were (and still are) intended to ensure that those uppity peasants are incapable of acting appropriately when the time arises.

    When confronted by ANY repressive / restrictive legislation or regulation, one should ALWAYS ask:

    “What are these scumbags planning that makes them worry that I (we) will tool up and want to hunt them down?”

  • Snag

    And one of the absolute worst – Kermit Gosnell

  • Zerren Yeoville

    After yet another mass killing, it’s time for all responsible citizens to hold our politicians to account and demand a ban on syringes. Syringes have only one purpose: to inject substances – possibly deadly substances! – into human bodies.

    While we do of course recognize that only a tiny minority of medics use syringes to commit mass murder, we as a civilized society simply cannot allow this menace to continue. We must face down groups like the National Syringe Association with their militant bumper stickers like ‘You’ll Only Get My Syringe When You Pry My Cold Dead Fingers Off The Handle’ who clearly believe that their so-called ‘right to bear syringes’ outweighs the right of patients to be safe from murderous psychopaths in our hospitals and clinics.

    To those cavilling fainthearts who say ‘But, but, we need syringes, because tourists & holiday ‘jabs’, because diabetics & insulin, because (insert lame excuse here)’ etc., we say simply: ‘Tough! Find some other way to get vaccinated!’

  • Phil B

    Because mass killers are not perceived as a threat to the State. Firearms owners are. They could take effective action against the excesses of the rulers so must be disarmed.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Bruce, if you are implying that the Hungerford and Dunblane massacres were commissioned as part of conspiracy by politicians and/or the civil service to tighten gun laws, let me put on record that I do not believe your theory. In the aftermath of both crimes I met a lot of this type of wishful thinking among the shooting community. I say wishful thinking because it is psychologically easier to think that some vaguely defined elites did this rather than “one of our own”. I should have kept a record of all the different versions circulating. It was just amazing how many people had a mate who had a mate in the Masons who heard it directly from the Chief Constable. Some iterations of this theory eventually ended up merging with the long running paedophile elites conspiracy theory that allowed the fantasist “Nick” to flourish for so long.

    If, however, you are implying that that politicians and civil servants had a long standing plan for gun control and were ready to use whatever suitably shocking crime came along in order to advance it, that is true.

  • Flubber

    “They could take effective action against the excesses of the rulers so must be disarmed.”

    Well exactly. Its also why the Dems hate the 2nd Amendment. If they ever tried anything too mad (and the current lot aren’t far away from that) they would have to deal with a hell of a lot of gold ole boys carrying serious heat.

  • Bruce

    Natalie, I was not delving into “conspiracies” in my comment. I was, as you suggest, noting how such events are cynically, and now automatically exploited by fundamentally nasty types; churnalists, academics, politicians, civil “servants” (spit) and all the other usual suspects, to “justify” their own politically motivated yearnings and actions, not to forget their often hugely inflated salaries.

  • Mr Ed

    Dr Shipman read The Guardian, that was trotted out as a fact as if it showed how normal he was. Around that time, that newspaper ran poster adverts saying ‘X reads The Guardian’, X being some lefty eminent person or celebrity. I dearly wished someone had trolled them at the time.

  • pete

    If I wanted to kill lots of people and get away with it I would probably have considered a career as a doctor or nurse, not an accountant or a washing machine repairman.

    Maybe people regard killers like Shipman and Allit as evil or sick people who entered the medical sphere of work to enable their killings rather than as representative of the wider population of doctors and nurses.

  • NickM

    Mr Ed,
    But Shipman was in many respects normal. That is partly how he got away with it for so long. If you look like Pennywise from the Stephen King book… Less so.

    I dunno but 3-4 yrs (nursing), 5 yrs at university (medicine) at a very formative age dealing with life and death and stuff is enormously, well, forming.

    You’ve also got…

    Guy dies and turns up on a cloud in front of some pearly gates. St Peter turns up with a clipboard and whilst he is perusing it an old bearded fellow with a Gladstone bag and a stethoscope ambles past. Disconcerted enough by his own rapid change in status from going from being alive to being dead the guy blurts out to St Peter, “Who’s that?!?!”. St Peter glances up from the clipboard and says, “Oh, don’t worry! That’s just God, he thinks he’s a doctor.”

  • JohnK


    I am sure that what Bruce was saying was that the police and Home Office elites used Hungerford and (less so) Dunblane to advance their plans for further gun restrictions, and I think this is so.

    In 1973, the police and Home Office floated plans for a massive extension of gun controls, including banning semi-auto rifles and registering shotguns. This was known as the Green Paper. However, the Heath government was losing control of the country at the time, and a shooting lobby grew up to oppose the Green Paper. With the fall of the Heath government in 1974 it was shelved, but it never went away.

    After Hungerford in 1987, there was no public inquiry or attempt to find out what went wrong. Instead, the 1973 Green Paper was merely brought back, and this time passed into law on the back of press hysteria about Rambo guns.

    I don’t think there was any great desire to ban pistols, but after Dunblane the useless Major government thought that they would get wiped out in Scotland if they didn’t. So they banned pistols and got wiped out in Scotland anyway. Tony Blair made a lot of political capital out of the deaths of the children, which should have alerted anyone to what a cynical and unpleasant man he really was. We all know that now, of course, but too late.

    So that’s gun law in Britain: a mixture of the control freakery of securicrats, and the cynicism and amorality of low life politicians. No wonder we hate them.

  • Mr Ed


    Mr Ed,
    But Shipman was in many respects normal. That is partly how he got away with it for so long.

    He read The Guardian, I rest my case. 😀

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

    As for mass shootings….

    The largest scale mass shooting in the United States was in Las Vegas – over a year ago now. Yet there has been no real investigation of it – just WHY did a man take a rifle, carefully set it up in a hotel room and shoot scores of people he did not know?

    The media appear to have no interest at all in why this happened – and just do their “Orange Man Bad” NPC thing, blaming everything on Donald Trump. Just as they have done with the Pittsburgh murders – pretending that Donald Trump (who has supported Israel and the Jewish people all his life) is some sort of Nazi.

    Sadly lies work (otherwise people would not tell lies) – and I expect the media campaign of lies and smears to have the intended effect next Tuesday.

    As for “gun control” laws being the way to stop murder with firearms – a glance at Mexico (or Chicago) shows what an absurd idea that is.

  • Paul Marks (October 31, 2018 at 5:22 pm), I expect you are aware of the theory about the Las Vegas shooter that is quite unlike – but not a million miles from – the theory that Bruce (October 31, 2018 at 1:24 am) does not hold but that Natalie (October 30, 2018 at 10:47 pm) (from a prudent thoroughness, given this post’s subject) ensured all readers knew he did not hold.

    The Las Vegas shooter, unusually for such people, provided no declaration of his motivation. His targets could be imagined, statistically, to trend more opposed to gun control than the US average. It was pointed out that if his motivation was to encourage gun control then he would logically provide no hint of that motivation. (An analogy on the other side of the aisle would be a man who murdered an opponent of capital punishment, was sentenced to jail and then, after an escape or after serving his sentence, murdered another opponent of capital punishment to encourage support for the death penalty.) Since however, the French bluebeard, who arrogantly assured his lawyer just before his execution that he would take his secret to the grave with him, is not such an unknown type, I think it quite possible that a killer who ends by killing himself may both like the idea of being a mystery and subconsciously fear how tawdry his motive would look were it ever dragged into the light of day. So, unless some evidence for it emerges, I will not embrace that ingenious theory about the Las Vegas shooter, despite it’s being able to explain media’s lack of interest if they thought it could be true.

    Lies do indeed work but they can also be worked out. Lincoln’s claim that “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time” may express a hope but it is not always a false one.

  • Eric

    I don’t understand how these medical serial killers manage to rack up such large numbers. Hospital administrators are well aware of how many people in such-and-such a condition can be expected to die under care. Such an enormous deviation from the expected should set off alarm bells long before they seem to do so. We had one in the US who was literally notorious among hospital staff for being the “unlucky” guy who had patients die on his watch years before anybody looked at him closely.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)


    Apparently Dr Shipman had an excellent beside manner. His patients, including the ones he murdered, adored him.

    Over the years I have on several occasions quoted this article written by Anthony Browne, the former Health Editor of the Observer, in 2001. It listed the reasons why the NHS is bad for us.

    He wrote:

    The lack of patient power and choice means that doctors do, quite literally, get away with murder. It is no coincidence that the NHS harboured the biggest mass murderer in history – the GP Harold Shipman, a known drug addict, who probably killed around 400 of his patients. Other countries have doctors as psychopathic as Shipman, but only the NHS has such contempt for patients that it doesn’t notice when they are being massacred.

    However, likely as the above seems to me on general principles (because without competition there is not so much pressure on an NHS doctor to be a good doctor), I have to note that some of the body counts racked up by killer doctors and nurses by other countries without the NHS are also spectacular. Perhaps Browne was wrong.

    We should be looking into this. For instance, were a disproportionate number of the US medical mass killers operating in parts of the American system where competition does not operate, like Veterans’ Administration hospitals?

    Or perhaps the fortunate rarity of mass murders among the population means that to attempt to make a statistical correlation is pointless, as it will be thrown out of whack by whatever the next individual killer does.

    I truly do not know.

    Edit: another issue, although not one relevant to all situations, is that some of the genuinely best doctors and surgeons have the worst death rates. The reason is that they are skilled and brave enough to attempt to cure nearly hopeless cases. Of course that does not apply to nurses such as the one you describe who was not in a position to select his own patients.

  • Fraser Orr

    Natalie Solent (Essex)
    Of course that does not apply to nurses such as the one you describe who was not in a position to select his own patients.

    Not necessarily. I am sure nurses who chose to work in hospices or geriatrics have a rather higher death rate than those who work in dermatology or plastic surgery clinics. And I imagine the two people who chose those careers are really quite different types of people. But your point is certainly well taken.

    It is an interesting dilemma, I think, for the medical profession. After all, doctors go to considerably lengths to inure themselves to the suffering of their patients. They have to, since emotional involvement would seriously cloud their judgement, and they’d be a constant emotional wreck from all the patients dying on them. They have to trade compassion for others for commitment to professionalism. I wonder how that plays into the doctor/killer theme.

    BTW, when I read the articles on here I rarely read the author. However, I can always tell it is your writing Natalie. There is an amazing honesty, openness, careful analysis and common sense in your writings that I sometimes find lacking in many forthright libertarians. (Which is not meant to be a comment on other writers here, all of whom are excellent. But I usually enjoy your pieces the most.)

  • Matrim Cauthon

    A lot of the problem is that the gun control question is so counter-intuitive; it seems obvious that if guns are used for crime, then, more guns, more crime, but in fact the people who have studied the data say it is the other way around. So, we gun owners cannot compromise; if we give our opponents what they are asking for, more anti-gun laws, we cannot thereby give them what they claim to want, a reduction in murder, it does not work that way. Of course another reason is that if they claim to compromise, we really do not get anything; they get the new anti-gun law, but we get no reduction in hatred, vilification, or the endless campaign for the next anti-gun law. I suppose that is partly because of the first point, that they cannot be satisfied because they never get the reduction in murder that they are allegedly hoping for; but probably there is more to it, as others have noted – such as, the leftists hate guns because the KKK used guns 100 years ago.

    And, let’s not forget that it is not just doctors but other terrorists who have used means other than guns with disastrous effect. Note that on the news they will report “the worst mass shooting” not the worst mass murder. That would be 9-11, with Oklahoma City in 2nd place, and after that a bombing of a school in or about the 1930’s, and a Molotov cocktail attack on a clandestine night club in New York. Fact checking for that one I finally found it at Wikipedia, which is more than I have been able to do before; began to wonder if I imagined it, coming down with old-timer’s disease or some such, but it is called the Happy Land fire – not so happy that night, with 87 dead (I thought it was 88, maybe that is part of the reason it was so hard to find). No guns, lots of death. One more: we should all be happy that the 2 kids at Columbine did not plan better; probably a couple of wrenches or a hacksaw would have enabled them to use the propane from the large outdoor tank, flooding that into the cellar to create a huge bomb that would have thoroughly destroyed the building and killed far more people than they did with guns.
    So, if the liberals in politics and the news industry would listen to their fellow liberals in academia, the debate would be pretty well over and we could go to work on doing something that would really be useful – such as better concealed carry laws, an evidence-based tactic for reducing murder, especially mass murder. The hard core of ideological anti-gun activists will never go away entirely, but there are probably not enough of them to win elections.

  • I can always tell it is your writing Natalie. There is an amazing honesty, openness, careful analysis and common sense in your writings (Fraser Orr, November 1, 2018 at 1:16 am)

    +1. In the days before PerryDeH gave me a login here, the many verbal and email discussions I had with Natalie very occasionally ended up in her posts. She invariably acknowledged my contribution, although I as invariably told her to feel absolutely free to edit ruthlessly and appropriate casually. On the occasions when she did edit – or sent back to me for editing – it was always an unqualified improvement. (For example, she identified one or two weak lines in my first draft of my poem, so I rewrote them. And this was all the better after a bit of pruning, editing and quote-correcting at Natalie’s hands.)

    She has certainly been keeping samizdata well supplied with useful posts on important matters recently.

  • probably there is more to it, as others have noted – such as, the leftists hate guns because the KKK used guns 100 years ago. (Matrim Cauthon, November 1, 2018 at 2:08 am)

    The KKK were the Democrats 100 years ago (and 150 years ago). The NRA was the rival organisation, founded by Republicans at much the same time as the KKK. Being a way for black members to acquire guns to defend against KKK attacks was part of the NRA’s activities from the start.

    These are not in the least difficult or recherche facts (though I note that if you search for ‘NRA’ and ‘founded’, you will be offered ‘NRA funded’ by most search engines). Few may know them on this side of the pond, but any modern politically-active U.S. Democrat who chooses not to know them chooses not to know them.

  • bobby b

    Niall, this has been explained over and over by the Democrats.

    At some point in the relatively recent past, all Democrats and all Republicans simply decided to exchange places. Thus, even though the Democrats fought for slavery and the Republicans’ Lincoln fought to end it, and even though the segregationist Democrats’ Governor Wallace and Sheriff Bull Connors tear-gassed and firehosed uppity blacks while the civil-rights-pursuing Republicans sought to protect them, they all agreed to switch places.

    So, when you say that most racial evil was accomplished, in US history, by Democrats, you need to acknowledge that they were really all closeted Republicans, and the justice-seeking Republicans were simply Democrats who hadn’t yet come out of the closet.

    Or something like that, they tell me.

  • they all agreed to switch places. (bobby b, November 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm)

    I assume this is the same switch that happened with the word ‘liberal’ which once denoted devotion to free speech and free enterprise. In the US, supporters and opponents of these concepts ‘agreed’ to switch. 🙂

    I’m guessing it is also the same as the colour switch. Outside the US, red means socialist, but inside the US, conservative and socialists ‘agreed’ that red would mean redneck and blue would be the colour of the left. 🙂

    Would I be right in assuming that the Republicans’ signature on all these agreements, like those meanings that US liberals extract from your ‘living’ constitution, can be hard for the uninitiated to discern, although obvious to the elite?

  • bobby b

    “Would I be right in assuming that the Republicans’ signature on all these agreements, like those meanings that US liberals extract from your ‘living’ constitution, can be hard for the uninitiated to discern, although obvious to the elite?”

    So they tell me. Repeatedly. Desperately. That the KKK was an explicitly Democrat organization, and that the NRA was a Republican organization originally started to counteract the impact of the KKK on the black community, are cited by them as proving that they must have switched places, because obviously they have always been at war with . . . I mean, they have always stood for truth and justice and good.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    I’m guessing it is also the same as the colour switch. Outside the US, red means socialist, but inside the US, conservative and socialists ‘agreed’ that red would mean redneck and blue would be the colour of the left. 🙂

    The red/blue designation for republican/democrat is actually fairly new. I remember being a fresh faced youth coming the the US from Britain and being utterly confused at the switch, since in Britain Labour is inevitably red and Tories, blue. So the colors/colours seemed backward to me. But anyway, here is some reading on the matter.


  • Paul Marks

    Niall – I did not express a theory about the Los Vegas murderer, I just expressed total bafflement about why no one appeared to be investigating the case. This was not a random act of rage – the rifle was carefully set up and the man spent some time doing what he did.

    As for the media – apart from their normal “Orange Man Bad!” NPC antics, they have shown total indifference to the mass murder.

    As for medical mass murders – such as the one in Germany. If the media can not find a way to blame it on Donald Trump (“Orange Man Bad!”) they are not interested. It is that brutally simple.

  • Paul Marks

    Frasor Orr – I suppose the Washington Post is dragging up the “bloody shirt” excuse for using red to mean Republican.

    The alleged habit of Republican candidates in the late 19th century of holding up “the bloody shirt” – old shirts with long dried blood stains from their service in the Civil War.

    The Democrats mocked this even then by calling one of their own paramilitary organisations the “Red Shirts” – the Democrat “Red Shirts” (like the KKK – another Democrat group which the recently deceased, a couple of years dead, Democrat Senator from West Virginia was a leading member of) specialised in attacking black people and Republican businessmen. The Democrats (even then) claiming to stand for the “common man” against “the rich” and “business interests”.

    The difference with today is that in the past Big Business mostly REALLY DID stand with the “Grand Old Party” (the Republicans) – now much of Big Business backs the Democrats (even though the Democrats stand for ever more entitlements, higher taxes and ever more regulations – and have done for a very long time indeed, the last conservative Democrat President being defeated at the Convention of 1896). WHY so much of “Big Business” backs the left is a hard question to answer – but it does.

    Historically the Democratic Party was a coalition of university educated intellectuals (so as the universities have gone further and further to the left – so has the Democratic Party) and “common man” supporting “Bosses” (people who in the big cities and in some areas in the South, who delivered votes on-masse in return for various benefits).

    And historically the Republican Party was the party of businessmen – big and little (the party of the “Babbitts” as Sinclair Lewis mocked them back in the 1920s – sneering at their lack of culture and their lack of interest in creating a utopia, the party of President Grant or President Warren Harding or Calvin Coolidge, or Eisenhower come to that). Although this had a bad side – as most Republicans were pro tariffs, in order to limit competition from overseas.

    Back then many American companies had a policy of preferring people who had worked their way up – rather than “college boys” who were thought to often have crazy ideas. I wish they had kept to this policy. If there were fewer “college boys” in American Big Business there might be far less support for the radical left from American Big Business.

    Yes principled ideas are better than business interests – but business interests are a lot better than following the insane ideas that universities teach now.

  • Julie near Chicago

    From Politifact, not a notable fan of the Republicans, there’s this article claiming to show that in fact the NRA was not founded in order to help Negroes defend themselves against the KKK. Quite a few links therein.

    Personally I always assumed that that was indeed the reason the NRA was formed. Was I wrong? I suppose that’s theoretically possible.


  • Julie near Chicago (November 3, 2018 at 5:45 am), I think Politico is nearer having its pants on fire than those they accuse in that article. There is a close analogy between their denials and those who deny that the civil war was about slavery. There are technicalities about the details of how the civil war started that can be used to obscure the obvious truth of how much the war was about slavery. Similarly, the fact that the founding goal of the NRA was to improve the shooting skills of northerners, Republicans and the US army (and, quite soon, also US law enforcers) can be used to avoid the obvious truth that confederates (i.e. not-sufficiently-ex confederates) were the most obvious initial targets whom NRA members were readying themselves to hit more accurately, should the need arise.

    The NRA was a way for those specifically targeted by the KKK to acquire the means and training to resist. It was also, obviously, an organisation whose membership were hostile to the KKK. (For example, during the 1880s, its presidents included General Grant and General Sheridan, who at various times suspended governments of several southern states for not doing enough to suppress the KKK.)

  • Bloke in italy

    Gun owners against medical killings – I like it. But your other point Bruce is spot on. And the reason I can never return to my country.