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Brazilian Doctor Accused of 'Playing God' May Have Killed Up to 300 ICU Patients

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 12:55 PM EDT

A Brazilian doctor is being accused of "playing God" after being arrested for the killings of seven patients in the intensive care unit at her hospital. Officials believe that she may be implicated in the deaths of 300 patients, making her one of the most prolific serial killers in the world. Though the motive remains unclear, it appears that she performed the killings in order to free more beds.

According to The Guardian, Virginia Soares de Souza was a doctor at the Evangelica Hospital of Curitiba, a city in the south of Brazil. Soares was a director of the hospital, and was recently arrested. According to the BBC, she was released on bail this week, though prosecutors are attempting to jail her once again, since new evidence has placed the doctor in a leadership role for the crimes. Three doctors, three nurses and a physiotherapist were also arrested and charged with murder for carrying out Dr. de Souza's orders.

Dr. de Souza allegedly cut off oxygen and administered life-ending doses of muscle relaxants. The patients reportedly died after the oxygen levels of their machines were lowered and they were given lethal dosages of the drug Pavulon, which weakens the strength of the diaphragm muscles. Investigators say that the deaths all have an identical modus operandi and timing.

The Irish Independent reports that, in one case, a patient reportedly asked a nurse for a glass of water. When the nurse returned, the patient was dead.

"I want to clear the intensive care unit. It's making me itch," the doctor said in one wiretapped phone conversation. "Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life." 

The arrests were made after an anonymous tip was made to the police department a year ago. The police have been criticized for taking so long to make arrests. Investigators have marked 20 other deaths as suspicious, and are looking into the doctor's role in nearly 300 more.

However, the doctor claims that those accusing her of murder lack medical expertise. Her lawyer claims that everything of which she is accused is justified according to medical literature.

The case is being compared to that of Dr. Harold Shipman, a British physician who was convicted in 2004 for killing 15 patients. The doctor was linked to at least 260 other suspicious deaths.

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