SOME have a “God” complex and enjoy playing with other people’s right to live. Others just enjoy watching people die.
One, who currently walks the corridors of a Queensland hospital dressed in a white coat and carrying a stethoscope, is a serial killer on the loose.
He’s a fully registered doctor who, even his professional colleagues admit “enjoys watching people die”.
How many people’s lives he has ended is uncertain, but Australian medical authorities are aware of the case of the elderly woman who died in intensive care when he turned off her oxygen.
Another person died when the doctor, who was assisting in a routine operation, administered six times the approved dose of saline in the patient’s drip.
On a different occasion, a patient only survived because staff physically restrained the doctor from pulling out his ventilator.
This killer doctor has been investigated, but never charged and works as a specialist in the Queensland hospital system.
One of his colleagues told a medical investigator they feared the doctor may be “another Harold Shipman”, the British doctor who killed dozens of elderly patients from the 1970s to the 1990s because he “simply enjoyed viewing the process of dying and enjoyed the feeling of control … literally over life and death”.
In NSW, Graeme Reeves was a sociopath with a scalpel.
For years he operated in townships along the dense strip of national park on NSW’s south coast, mutilating women.
Diagnosed as “narcissistic”, Reeves played God with the bodies of women whose complaints filed as far back as 30 years ago included torn vaginal canals, perforated bladders, post-birth vaginas stitched up too tightly for sex, whose babies died, or Reeves had removed their reproductive organs without their knowledge or consent.
Reeves was deregistered and charged, but is now awaiting an appeal to the High Court which may mean he is back on the streets early in the new year.
Meanwhile, his victims endure a lifetime of physical pain, depression and the daily distress of their mutilated selves.
Just this month in NSW, dentist Andrew Istephan avoided jail after a court let him off with a community service order.
Istephan was guilty of filing down the teeth of elderly people without their consent in nursing homes across Sydney.
Some patients were aged in their late 90s and some had dementia.
Then there’s former Bundaberg-based surgeon Jayant Patel who will be returning to the US after a judge sentenced him on November 22 for fraud to a two-year sentence, wholly suspended, which means no jail.
Patients died during Dr Patel’s term as director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital, but Queensland’s Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with two grievous bodily harm charges, two manslaughter charges, three of fraud, one of attempted fraud and an alternative charge of negligent acts causing harm.
Why is it that some doctors and other health professionals can face accusations of killing and maiming, and if those claims are proven, face little or no jail time and in some cases continue practising and ruining ordinary people’s lives?
The Medical Board of Australia told news.com.au controls over rogue doctors had improved.
MBA Chair, Dr Joanna Flynn, said at least in NSW and Queensland health professional investigation bodies now “fast tracked complaints”.
But whistle blower Jo Barber, a former Queensland police detective who uncovered the case of the “serial killer” doctor, claims Queensland medical authorities were covering up incompetent and reckless doctors and those who were “just plain psychopaths”.
While there was no doubt the vast majority of doctors performed their duties to save lives and help patient, she said others who did harm intentionally “walk away unscathed”.
“There are young and healthy people out there at risk and even old people or people who are terminal patients, they have the right to whatever hours they have left of their lives.
“This poor woman, whose life support [doctor’s name withheld for legal reasons] turned down – not off, so that for the last 12 hours of her life she struggled to breathe and died a miserable death.
“I still don’t sleep. He’s out there with unconscious patients. He has never been referred to the police.
“People are at risk”.
But Dr Flynn said guidelines for responding to complaints about doctors has been revised and, “by the time you get to four or five complaints [about a medical practitioner], there is an alarm bell”.
“Work has been done to speed up investigation timelines.”
Dr Flynn said greater emphasis was put on doctors in situations where a patient died, the practitioner was working in an isolated region away from other health professionals and when a complaint was made by police or an employer.
Ms Barber’s investigations resulted in the disbanding of the Queensland Medical Board, and the Queensland Police Force investigating six doctors.
Among their patients are several who allegedly suffered unnecessary amputations or horrible disfigurement by cosmetic surgery.
However, Ms Barber alleges that in that state alone “at least 100 doctors” still practising had killed or injured patients, either deliberately or because they were “grossly incompetent”.
“Doctors are held in high esteem in the community and they often have a godlike narcissism,” she said.
“And a good [surgeon] standing with, literally, someone’s heart in their hands you need that godlike narcissism.
“But not when they are incompetent and have no insight into that incompetence, and their colleagues won’t do anything, the nurses are too frightened to complain and there’s not the strength in the [specialist medical] colleges to stop them.”
Here are some medical professionals who went wrong and the lives they affected.
The baby killer
In Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors”, the 72-year-old played Chopin on the piano as police in biohazard suits sifted through the “absolute squalor” for grisly remains.
An FBI raid of the doctor’s West Philadelphia clinic uncovered unspeakable finds … the corpses of dead babies in fridges and cabinets, the body parts of infants or foetuses down the garbage disposal system.
“The smells were just unbearable,” an investigator told NBC10, “you could tell there was death somewhere.”
Baby body parts clogged the toilets after pregnant women underwent abortion procedures.
When some preterm babies kept on breathing, Dr Gosnel snipped the baby’s necks to ensure their death.
The limbs and parts of dead babies so jammed the sinks, one day a baby’s arm popped up from the sewer out on the street.
A court found Gosnell guilty in May of killing three babies in his filthy abortion clinic.
The deaths were intentional and motivated by greed, the jury said.
The “Butcher of Bega”
In August, 2002, Graeme Reeves leaned over a patient who was lying on the hospital operating table in the tiny beachside town of Pambula on the NSW South Coast.
Carolyn DeWaegeneire was about to go under for routine surgery to remove a small lesion on her labia.
Reeves bent down to her ear and whispered: “I’m going to take your clitoris”.
Ms DeWaegeneire succumbed to the anaesthetic.
When she woke up, she discovered Reeve had removed her external genitalia in its entirety.
Reeves had told a nurse who objected to the amount of genital tissue he was removing during the procedure, it didn’t matter because DeWaegeneire “no longer had a husband.”
The area removed measured 95mm by 55mm by 34mm.
DeWaegeneire, 58, was shattered at her mutilation. Going to the toilet was “electric agony”.
Marilyn Hawkins, also 58, also woke up in Pambula hospital from what should have been a minor treatment to correct a “slight leakage” of her bladder.
She ended up “a hundred times worse” than when she had gone in.
She said Reeves “stitched up my vagina so tight that I couldn’t have sex”.
“He stitched me up like an old blanket.
“I was in such agony after the operation that I could hardly sit down for about a month”.
Others claimed he molested them in his surgery.
When a woman died from septicaemia five days after Reeves delivered her baby and refused her antibiotics, the NSW Medical Board barred him from obstetrics, but allowed him to continue as a gynaecologist.
It was then he embarked on his mutilation of women ion the NSW south coast, earning him the nickname the “Butcher of Bega”.
By May 2008, NSW police were investigating the deaths of 10 babies and seven women under Reeves care.
But Reeves was eventually convicted of just four charges, which he has appealed, as well as taking his case to the High Court seeking release in early 2014.
Last month, Reeve’s barrister Peter Hamill SC told the High Court judges had failed to take into account “significant mitigating factors of the case”, including the banned doctor’s mental health problems and his separation from his wife.
The doctor who plays “God”
A Brazilian doctor being investigated in multiple potential patient murders “wanted to play God”, according to relatives of one of her alleged victims.
Those victims may run to more than 300 people, making her the worst serial killer in Brazil’s history.
Virginia Helena Soares de Souza, 56, led a seven member medical team which allegedly administered muscle-relaxing drugs to patients and reduced their oxygen supplies, causing them to die of asphyxia at the Evangelical Hospital in Curitiba, southern Brazil.
This could make de Souza, currently being held in a women’s correctional facility, another Harold Shipman if she is convicted.
Dr Shipman was a UK physician with a pethidine addiction and an arrogant, domineering personality who began killing his patients in Greater Manchester, Yorkshire in the 1970s and stopped only in1998 when police were alerted to the high incidence of death in his practice.
Sentenced to 15 life sentences for murder, Shipman hanged himself in jail..
Dr De Souza’s allegedly wished to speed up the deaths of critically ill patients to “free up” bed space.
“I want to clear the intensive care unit. It’s making me itch,” she said in a recording, the BBC reported.
“Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life.”