Medicine's most wanted: Lethal crimes that will haunt you

By Mary Ellen Lewis, for MDLinx
Published September 21, 2018

Key Takeaways

Doctors and nurses must vow to do no harm under the Hippocratic Oath, but for these four medical professionals, the oath means nothing.

We know our readers are all patient-first professionals who put the needs of others before their own. Unfortunately, not everyone in medicine feels the same way. Take a look at a few of the medical profession's most notorious murderers—they're sure to send a chill down your spine.

1. H.H. Holmes: Serial Murder and Insurance Fraud

Widely acknowledged as one of the first known serial killer in the United States, Herman Webster Mudgett—who later changed his name to Henry Howard Holmes—started his dubious career during medical school, where he would steal cadavers from the lab, take out insurance policies on them, and then stage their "murders" to collect the policy money, according to the Alcatraz East Museum.

After officially passing his medical exams in 1885, Holmes took a job at a small pharmacy. When the owner of the pharmacy passed away, Holmes convinced the widow to sell the business to him. She later went missing, never to be heard from again.

Holmes proceeded to build a nearby hotel that would later become his "murder castle"—all employees, guests, fiancés, and wives were required to sign life insurance policies, of which Holmes was listed as the primary beneficiary. Not surprisingly, witnesses said they saw many women enter the hotel, but never saw them leave.

During the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, many out-of-town visitors unfortunate enough to book a room at Holmes' hotel never made their way back home. Holmes' murders and atrocities were many: The rooms in Holmes' nightmare factory contained direct gas lines which he used to asphyxiate his guests at his whim, along with peepholes, trap doors, and staircases straight out of a horror movie.

In addition to collecting an insurance policy on most of these individuals, Holmes would also strip them of their flesh and sell the skeletons to medical schools. After being arrested for killing his insurance scam partner and his partner's family, Holmes confessed to 28 more killings.

In 1896, Dr. H.H Holmes was hanged, and his house of horrors was recast as a tourist attraction. Eerily enough, it burned to the ground shortly before opening.

2. Niels Högel: Serial Murder

Niels Högel—a nurse previously employed at two hospitals in northern Germany—was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 after being found guilty of killing six patients. Turns out, those unlucky six were just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Washington Post.

Prosecutors said that, in an effort to stave off boredom and impress his colleagues with his resuscitation prowess, Högel administered unauthorized injections that would send his victims into cardiac arrest. He later confessed to 24 more patient murders, but after investigating, police and prosecutors estimate the real number is anywhere between 97 and 106.

Due to some suspected victims being cremated, there is likely even more blood on Högel's hands than investigators were able to conclusively prove, making him one of the most heinous serial killers in Germany since World War II.

3. Dr. John Bodkin Adams: Professional Negligence & Fraud, and Suspected Murder

This next case is a contentious one—while Dr. John Bodkin Adams was acquitted of murder in 1957, this alleged killer was a beneficiary in 132 patients' wills, two of whom were confirmed to have died under his care prior to his first arrest, according to the BBC and a recent book outlining his lethal hobby.

Some argue that aside from a described "pathological interest" in his wealthy, elderly patients' wills, Adams was really an angel of mercy, not the grim reaper. He administered a combination of opioids to patients Edith Alice Morrell and Gertrude Hullett to ostensibly relieve their suffering.

Although he was never officially found guilty on these charges, word spread quickly through the quiet English town of Sussex about Adam's apparent obsession with his patients' estates, as well as his scheduling of Hullett's autopsy before she even died. The attending pathologist, horrified upon discovering Hullett was alive, accused Adams of "extreme incompetence."

Adams is known to have "inherited" cash, silverware, two Rolls Royces and other valuable items from patients who died under his care. After his trial, police came to suspect that Adams was responsible for more than just the deaths of Hullett and Morrell, but prosecution's case was never strong enough to hold Adams accountable for his alleged crimes.

However, Adams was found guilty of forging prescriptions shortly after his murder trial and was removed from the United Kingdom's medical registry. He was reinstated as a general practitioner in 1961 and benefitted from his patients' legacies until his death in 1983, leaving behind a slew of questions and unknowns regarding how many people he victimized.

4. Genene Anne Jones: Infanticide and Child Murder

Pediatric nurses are known for their gentle nature and love of children, but Genene Anne Jones had more sinister motivations when it came to her role at numerous hospitals around the San Antonio, TX, area, according to ProPublica and Texas Monthly.

Ever the narcissist, Jones would inject helpless small children and infants in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit with digoxin, heparin, or succinylcholine, sending her victims into crisis so that she could claim the title of hero if they pulled through. Over the course of her deadly career, Genene is thought to have killed anywhere between 11 and 60 babies and children. She was able to evade detection thanks to succinylcholine, Jones' poison of choice, which is undetectable in a patient's system.

Although known to have murdered dozens, Jones is in prison for just two convictions: 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan and 11-month-old Rolando Santos. New charges were filed for five more murders in 2017 to prevent her mandatory release in 2018, which was scheduled due to a Texas law meant to prevent prison overcrowding.

Jones is currently indicted on all five counts.

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