A Brazilian doctor charged with murdering seven hospital patients is now being investigated in connection with hundreds more similar cases of suspicious deaths.
A team led by health ministry investigator Mario Lobato is re-examining the 1,872 deaths that have happened over the past seven years in the intensive care unit led by 56-year-old Virginia Soares de Souza.
On Sunday, Lobato said in an interview with Globo television that 20 of these deaths at the Evangelical hospital in the southern city of Curitiba are now deemed suspicious and 300 more are under review.
De Souza’s lawyer scoffed at the figure, accusing Lobato of “trying to sensationalize with the number of deaths in an intensive care unit.”
“Does that mean that nobody died from causes resulting from their own condition?” he asked, in an interview with AFP. “That would be a unique case worldwide.”
Neither the Brazilian health ministry, the hospital nor the prosecutor’s office of the state of Parana would comment on the case.
De Souza was arrested in February and held for one month before being released on bail. She has denied all the charges against her.
“I was never negligent, careless. I was never blamed for ethical violations and I practiced medicine in a conscientious and correct manner,” she told Globo on Sunday.
Three doctors and two nurses from the same unit have also been charged with murder while a physiotherapist and a nurse face lesser charges.
According to the prosecution, several patients in the unit died from asphyxiation after being given muscle-relaxing medication and having their oxygen supply reduced.
The investigation began two years ago after former hospital employees and relatives of the patients reported allegedly suspicious deaths.
Globo television aired recordings in which de Souza said she wanted “to decongest” the unit. “Unfortunately it is our role to be the springboard to the other world,” she said, in another recording.