Spanish nursing home doubts 'mercy killings' confession

1st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The director of a nursing home in Spain cast doubt Wednesday on an orderly's confession that he killed 11 elderly residents, and denied any failings by the facility.

Joan Vila, 45, who worked at La Caritat home in the northeastern town of Olot, said following his arrest on October 18 that he had poisoned three elderly residents "to end their suffering."

On Tuesday, he confessed to a judge he had killed eight more, his lawyer told reporters.

"La Caritat cannot, at present, give credibility to the statements of the accused," the director of La Caritat, Joan Sala, told a news conference accompanied by a lawyer.

"A person who has changed his statements as the process has advanced can still continue to lie."

Vila's lawyer said on Tuesday that the orderly, who had worked at La Caritat since 2005, had acted out of "compassion ... because they were suffering and he wanted to give them some peace."

Two of the victims were given an overdose of insulin, and six others a cocktail of medicines. All were registered as natural deaths by doctors at the home.

But doctors alerted police after they found burns to the mouth and throat of 85-year-old woman who died last month.

Vila then confessed he had killed the woman and two others in the same way, by forcing them to drink bleach.

Sala said that "all proper procedures were followed" by the home, and that some of the victims were examined by more than one doctor before they were certified as dying from natural causes.

As most of the residents are "extremely fragile," it is "not unusual that they die from old age," he said.

"A lack of measures cannot at any time have been the cause of what happened."

He said no autopsies are performed unless there is "indication of a crime."

The newspaper El Pais said 15 people had died in the nursing home this year. Of these, 12 were while Vila was on duty, which was only at weekends and holidays.

© 2010 AFP

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