'Angel of Death' German doctor accused of killing 13

21st October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The doctor is accused of stopping the patients' proper drug regimen and injecting them instead with lethal doses of the drugs morphine and Valium -- and without proper consultation.

Hanover -- A German doctor dubbed the "Angel of Death" denied on Tuesday killing 13 cancer patients, telling the first day of her trial they were all dying and were fully consulted up to the end.

"I did not bring about the death of any of my patients, nor wish it," a tearful Mechthild Bach, 59, told the court in Hanover, saying they were all "in the final phase of life" with "a choice of treatment right up to the end."

"I am wrongly accused and resolutely challenge these accusations," she said. The time of death was neither caused nor accelerated by my actions ... Accusations of conscious or deliberate killing lack any basis in fact."

Before the trial in Hanover, she said that it was her job to help her patients to "live in dignity with as little pain as possible with as little fear as possible" in their final days.

The prosecution, which wants her convicted on 13 counts of manslaughter committed between 2001 and 2003 at a hospital in Hanover, sees things differently.

It says that the patients, who ranged in age from 52 to 96, were sick but that none was at death's door.

Bach is accused of stopping the patients' proper drug regimen and injecting them instead with lethal doses of the drugs morphine and Valium -- and without proper consultation.

Bach, who has been struck off the medical register and who now works as a consultant, said that she had made a "serious error" in not keeping better records.

"This is what has brought me here," she told the court, but she said it was wrong to come to the conclusion "that patient consultations that were undocumented never took place."

The case came to light quite by chance when a health insurance provider investigated accusations of wrongdoing in 2003 against another doctor at the same hospital, the Paracelsus-Klinik.

In doing so, they stumbled across the fact that the hospital appeared to be getting through a suspiciously large amount of morphine.

They passed their findings on to prosecutors, who arranged for several of the patients' remains to be dug up and examined. Bach was duly charged with eight counts of manslaughter and banned from practising medicine.

With Bach released from custody after several weeks, the courts had more important matters to attend to and it took until February 2008 for the case to come to trial.

That trial was abandoned, however, because one of the judges became seriously ill. In the meantime, prosecutors increased the number of cases of alleged manslaughter to 13.

The new trial is expected to last at least two years, with both the prosecution and the defence providing independent and contradictory reports from two highly renowned German medical experts.

In the first trial, the experts disagreed on the decisive question of whether Bach merely wanted to spare her patients pain as they died, or whether she had injected the drugs in order to kill them.

Josef Harnischmacher/AFP/Expatica

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