Kills morphine patients in hospice care

Cancer doctor kills herself with morphine

Hanover / Bad Salzdetfurth. She was the master of the life and death of her patients - at least that was what the judges accused cancer doctor Mechthild B. And the 61-year-old also wanted to retain decision-making power over her own last step. A week after the court announced that the doctor would face a murder conviction, Mechthild B. committed suicide. At this point in time, the public prosecutor's office had been investigating the doctor for seven years. She is said to have killed at least 13 patients with excessive doses of painkillers. The pressure of this accusation, but above all the court's position, which was now clearly formulated for the first time, was apparently too great: After a final conversation with her lawyer, the 61-year-old retired to her home in Bad Salzdetfurth near Hildesheim. There she was found dead in bed Monday afternoon after giving herself a fatal IV infusion containing an overdose of morphine and face life imprisonment. The doctor remains arguable even after her suicide. The trial against her was extremely lengthy, dozens of witnesses were heard, and every patient's fate was meticulously rolled out for days. Probably never before in a German court has the question of where terminal care for seriously ill people ends and active euthanasia begins has been so elaborately explored. The position of the judges in the past week was surprisingly clear to most observers: They spoke in at least two cases of treacherous murder. The judges did not believe the doctor that treating pain with very high doses of morphine, valium and psychotropic drugs was in the best interests of the patients. "We have no evidence that the actions of the accused corresponded to the patient's wishes," said the chairman of the jury, Wolfgang Rosenbusch, in the previous week. "Above all, this assumption by the court literally pulled the rug out from under my client's feet," says lawyer Matthias Waldraff of the German Press Agency. The internist was convinced that everything would be done in harmony with the patients. The cancer doctor had said in court that the treatment with painkillers had served to relieve and accompany the end of the life. But cautious criticism of the doctor's behavior can also be heard from patient protection organizations such as the German Hospice Foundation. Board member Eugen Brysch says that the woman's suicide is a human tragedy, but that the doctor alone decided on caring for seriously ill people. “Killing and caring for the dying cannot be the same.” The Hospice Foundation demands that clinics have an ethical council of doctors, nursing staff and theological employees, which should decide the fate of such people. Many of the former and current patients of Mechthild B., who had opened a practice for general health care after her medical license was withdrawn, were shocked by the doctor's suicide on Tuesday. Some even blamed the court, the public prosecutor and the appraisers in the process. “In the course of the trial, they helped Frau Doctor B. make this decision,” says Ulla Hagemeister, who was a listener in the courtroom on many days of the trial, told the “Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung”. Others claim that the doctor was unsettled by a lack of and unclear legislation, by the medical profession and by lawyers, and that she was driven to her death as a result.