German Cardiologist Bags 4 Years In Prison For Killing Two Aged Patients With Overdoses

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A German senior cardiologist at Europe’s biggest hospital known as Berlin’s Charité hospital, Dr Gunther Schmidt, has been sentenced to four years in prison over the death of two patients.

The 56-year-old doctor was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter by a court in Berlin on Friday.

The court determined that the physicain was responsible for killing the two patients with overdoses of the anaesthetic Propofol.

According to reports, the aged patients were a 73-year-old man who died in 2021 and a 73-year-old woman who died in 2022.

Schmidt worked as a senior physician in the cardiological intensive care unit at the hospital and has been suspended on full pay since August 19 2022.

He was then taken into custody on May 8 2023, and his trial started in October 2023 before the judgment was handed down today, Friday, 26th April.

The two aged victims were victims Ulrich B., 73, and Margarete G., 73, whose full names have been withheld due to local privacy laws, died on 21st November 2021 and 23rd July 2023. 

Both patients were seriously ill and treated at the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit until the sad incidents that took their lives.

A 28-year-old nurse at the hospital claimed she witnessed the doctor injecting both patients with high doses of a sedative called propofol, but Schmidt denied the allegations during the trial and disputed the amount of drugs claimed in the indictment.

The doctor argued he administered a sedative to both of them to reduce their suffering, but added the patients were already dying and the medicine was administered so that they would not suffer

Prosecutors had sought murder convictions and a life sentence for the doctor, but public prosecutor Martin Knispel also asked the court to ban the doctor from practising medicine for life.

The doctor’s defence lawyer had asked the court for an acquittal and argued that the physician’s actions were not the cause of the deaths.

Both patients were severely ill and in an “active dying phase,” a condition in which it was permissible to switch to palliative therapy.

During the trial, the doctor said he was certain that he had “not shortened the lives of the patients” and testified that his only mistake was having failed to document the administration of the drug, Propofol, in both cases.

But the court was shocked to learn in testimony from toxicologist Professor Roland Seifert, 63, that the injections contained lethal doses of drugs. 

Seifert revealed that an autopsy of the patients found that the propofol injection also contained lethal doses of the mepivacaine and ketamine. 

Mepivacaine is reportedly not available in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and neither is ketamine, with both drugs thought to have been brought in by the doctor.

Seifert told the court: “That’s intense. I am shocked. This must have been injected shortly before death. Only someone could have brought that with them. Mepivacaine and ketamine were heavily dosed. Who did it and when is missing from the documents.”

The public prosecutor said: “He abused his position as a doctor for selfish, base motives. He wanted to assert his discretion as to when life was still worth living and when it was not.” 

The prosecutor also stated his “surprise” that only the 28-year-old nurse noticed that anything was wrong. He added: “It stands to reason that there were other cases.”

Local media reported that investigators had found a whole folder in his office listing numerous patient deaths. Dr Gunther Schmidt’s verdict is due to be handed down today, Friday, 26th April.