Healthcare Serial Killings Down in U.S. but Up Globally
Written by Editor   
Thursday, October 30, 2014 10:48 PM

Now there's a headline that you don't see often touted as good news:  Hey, fewer healthcare workers in the US are committing serial murder, but worldwide more of them are.

The number of serial killings committed by healthcare providers has leveled off in the U.S. in recent decades, although it is rising internationally, Eindra Khin Khin, MD, said here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

According to the literature, the number of cases of healthcare serial killings overall rose from 10 in the 1970s to 21 in the 1980s, 23 in the 1990s, and then to 40 in the years 2000 to 2006, said Khin Khin, who along with her colleagues presented a poster on the topic.

The vast majority of killings (72%) occurred in a hospital, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes (20%), patients' homes (6%) and outpatient settings (2%).

Among the killings occurring in hospitals, the biggest percentage (38%) were committed on medical/surgical units, followed by the intensive care and critical care units (18%); the rest were spread among other wards including geriatrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, neurology, and the emergency department.

As to the method used, the majority of killings -- 52% -- were done via lethal injection, followed by unknown methods (25%), suffocation (11%), and water in the lungs (4%). Air embolus and oral medications were each used in another 3%, while equipment tampering and poisoning accounted for 1% each.

Among the drugs used were opiates and opioids (23%), potassium chloride (17%), insulin (13%), and other neuromuscular-blocking drugs (9%). More than half of killers (60%) were RNs, followed by aides (18%), physicians (12%), and non-RNs (8%).