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10 Shocking Cases of Evil Doctors Who Were Brutal Serial Killers

What happens when the person entrusted with saving lives starts taking them instead? Most people expect serial killers to be some deranged loners with a troubled upbringing, but then, nothing prevents them from being doctors. Next to priests, doctors rank next to whom people would trust with their lives. While most doctors keep up to this expectation by giving millions of people a second chance at life, some turn out to be bloodthirsty monsters. While isolated cases of genuine mistakes may cost human lives, these ten doctors were all-out cold-blooded murderers who used hospitals as slaughterhouses for their unsuspecting patients.

Josef Mengele

doctors who were serial killers - Josef Mengele

This is the man that drew a line on the wall at Auschwitz concentration camp and ordered all the children whose heads were below the line to be killed. Mengele was one of the most twisted minds that ever served in the Nazi government. He was the chief physician at Auschwitz camp where millions of Nazi prisoners of war were killed. Apart from being responsible for the selection of people for gas chambers, he also conducted his own research aimed at proving that Jews and Gypsies were genetically inferior races. His actions as the chief doctor at the camp still shock the world today. One prisoner remembered that Mengele gassed 750 women because their block was infected with lice. He also shot a woman who fought an SS officer trying to separate her from her child, then proceeded to gas all the people that were part of her transport. His actions in the experiments were even more depraved.

His research is believed to have killed over 3000 twins. He injected chemicals into the eyes of his subjects trying to change their eye color. His obsession with establishing an Aryan race made him infect people with Typhus, malaria and other deadly diseases to test how their bodies reacted, most of them died. He later killed those that survived the experiment to perform autopsies. Mengele’s research was done in secret although he sent out some body parts to Munich for further analysis. Most of his crimes were detailed by a doctor who was forced to assist him at the camp. When the Soviet army attacked in 1945, he fled but was later arrested by the Americans. He, however, lied about his identity and was released leading to his escape to Argentina and then Brazil where he died under a stolen identity.[1][2]

Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman is still considered the most prolific killer in UK history. Dr. Death, as many people referred to him had a degree from Leeds University when he started practicing as a doctor. He was suspended in 1975 for fraudulent prescriptions of painkillers which people believe he either abused or used to overdose his patients. He was however cleared to work in 1977. In 1998, a family got suspicious after an 81-year-old woman he had just treated died mysteriously. She had allegedly changed her will naming Shipman as the beneficiary of her $400,000 estate. It was later established that she had been overdosed using diamorphine and Shipman had forged the will.

An investigation into earlier deaths of his patients led to 15 murder convictions in 2000. When the government ordered a further review of his practice, it was discovered that Shipman had killed 215 of his victims. He believed he had power over life and death and extracted pleasure from watching his old patients die. Some experts believe he thought he was helping the world by killing the aged people whom he saw as a burden to society. Whatever, his motivation was, his killings shocked the world and people blamed the government for not investigating a large number of sudden deaths related to his victims. He, however, escaped justice by hanging himself in his cell in 2004.[3]

Marcel Petiot

Marcel Petiot is remembered as a robber, serial killer and quack doctor who caused so much anger in Postwar France leading to his name Dr. Satan. Petiot was diagnosed with insanity from his time as a teenager in school to his dismissal from the French army in WW1 for abnormal behavior. He was a weird character accused many times of stealing, but few people knew that he was a serial killer. He received his medical degree in 1921 and started practice in Villeneuve where he was even elected as mayor in 1926 despite being linked to the murder of 2 people. He later moved to Paris in 1931 after being removed from office.

He established a practice as a doctor in Paris where he is believed to have killed more than 60 people. His victims were mostly Jews trying to escape the Nazi invasion. He injected them with poison and burned them in a chamber in his basement before taking all their property. His crimes came to light when more than 30 bodies were found in his basement after WWII. He claimed that these were bodies of Nazi soldiers killed by the French Resistance army but later confessed to killing more than 60 people. He was found guilty of 26 murders and beheaded in 1946.[4]

Michael Swango

Michael Swango

Michael Swango turned into an international serial killer, no thanks to hospital administrations that never admitted that one of their own could be a killer. He was accused of killing at least 60 people and poisoning many others in the US in the 80s but moved to Zimbabwe in Africa to avoid arrest. His first crimes came to light at the Ohio state university where he poisoned his patients while working as a resident. He took a lot of interest in dying patients as a student trying to understand their pain and instead of treating it, he “ended it.”

He also poisoned his colleagues at the hospital but despite complaints from the nurses about the many deaths on the floors where Swango visited, no action was taken against him. He was denied a second year of residence but later obtained a license to practice medicine in Ohio. Through the 12 years of his work as a doctor, people died everywhere he went. When authorities started investigating him for the murder of 3 patients in Long Island in 1993, he fled and joined missionary hospitals in Zimbabwe where he continued killing people. A joint effort between US and Zimbabwean prosecutors led to his sentence to 3 lifetimes without parole in August 1985.[5]

Shirō Ishii

Shirō Ishii

This is the Japanese version of Josef Mengele. Just like Auschwitz, unit 731 was a Japanese concentration camp mainly used to hold Chinese POWs. Of the tens of thousands of prisoners taken to the camp, only 157 were alive when Japan surrendered to the US in 1945, but sadly, they were also killed to conceal the research from the world. The test subjects including infected rats and fleas were then released into the area resulting in the worst post-WWII plague. Shirō Ishii was the lead doctor researching possible biological weapons and also training doctors for the imperial army. Apart from the thousands that died at the camp, his experiments led to the spread of the bubonic plague in China that killed up to 30,000 people.

His experiments were extremely inhuman, they included tests on how long it takes for people to freeze to death at 50 degrees below zero, whether someone can live if the esophagus is connected directly to the intestines instead of the stomach and how long it takes for someone to bleed to death after their limbs are cut off. Some of the people used in the experiment were children and pregnant women. Unlike the evil Nazi doctors who were prosecuted for war crimes, Shirō and his team got off with a pat on the back. The Japanese praised him as a war hero and given immunity by the US in exchange for the information on his research. He died in 1960 from throat cancer aged 67.[6]

John Bodkin Adams

John Bodkin Adams

Dr. John Adams made headlines in the 50s when it emerged that he used lethal doses of pain killers to end the lives of his aged patients. He was a local town doctor mostly attending to old patients including widows in Eastbourne, UK. He is believed to have been the mentor of Harold Shipman. His patients mostly left him valuable items in their will leading to the speculation that he coerced them into manipulating their wills before poisoning them.

His practices became suspicious after he called a pathologist to perform an autopsy on Gertrude Hullet who was just unconscious. The pathologist suspected that he had poisoned her, but the dose was not lethal although the case was dismissed. An investigation, however, confirmed that Adams might have killed 163 patients during his career. The most suspicious aspect of his practice was the 400 wills written to him by his deceased patients. He, however, claimed that he was only easing his patients’ pain and Euthanasia was not illegal at the time, so he was not convicted of murder.[7]

Harry Howard Holmes

Harry Howard Holmes

This doctor is still considered America’s first serial killer. He is the inspiration behind the American Horror story because his life was full of horror. While in school, Holmes stole bodies from the lab, disfigured and staged them as deaths caused by accidents to collect insurance on them. A few years after his graduation, he worked at a drug store in Chicago. He later mysteriously inherited the store from the owner and used the profits to construct a 3-story castle where he created his official murder chamber.

The castle was used as a lodge mostly advertised to young women. He killed his guests in his lab on the first floor, then cremated their bodies. His victims included his wives and employees whom he forced to sign him up as the beneficiary on their life insurance before killing them. He was arrested and confessed to 28 murders. The bodies found at his castle were dismembered and decomposed so the police could not tell precisely how many people had buried there. Further investigation confirmed that he may have killed over 200 people in his insurance scam spree including his partner Benjamin Pitezel and his children. He was hanged in 1896 for the murders. His castle was renamed to the Holmes Horror Castle to attract visitors, but it burned down before its official opening.[8]

Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey

This was the American angel of death who confessed to killing 87 people between 1970 and 1987. He was first named “the kiss of death” by his fellow nurses in Ohio because many people died under his care. The deaths however never raised questions because most of them were old and in bad shape. His crimes came to light when an autopsy on a motorcycle accident victim under his care showed traces of cyanide.

The prosecutors confirmed that Harvey took advantage of busy hospitals where doctors were not keen on aged patients because the bodies were taken to the funeral homes without an autopsy. He was later arrested and confessed to the murders. He claimed that the patients were in pain and he was showing them mercy. The details of how he used deadly poisons like Arsenic and Cyanide to poison his victims, angered the judges who gave him multiple lifetimes in prison despite being declared mentally unfit. An angry inmate in jail killed him in 2017.[9]

Carl Clauberg

Carl Clauberg

This was another deranged Nazi doctor obsessed with racial cleansing. Unlike Mengele who, concentrated on twins in his experiment, Clauberg was obsessed with sterilization. He was looking for a method that could help in mass sterilization to reduce the population of “unfit races.” His research procedures were however not any less depraved than Mengele’s. He injected lethal chemicals and acids into thousands of women causing severe pain, bleeding, and death.

His victims were mostly Jewish and Gypsy women whom he ordered into the gas chambers after experimenting on. The men were stripped and placed between two x-ray machines where the radiation was directed at their testicles causing severe pain and permanent sterilization. The victims deemed unfit for work after the experiment was then sent to the gas chambers. The Soviet army later arrested him before later coming back to Germany in the post-war repatriation agreement. He was re-arrested by the Germans but died in 1957 before a conviction.[10]

Niels Högel

Niels Högel

German nurse, Niels Högel became the most prolific serial killer in Germany after he was caught red-handed administering non-prescribed drugs at a hospital in Northern Germany. He was sentenced to 7 years for attempted murder, but further investigations revealed he had been administering drugs that caused cardiac arrests to patients for years. It was confirmed that resuscitations more than doubled at every hospital after he had been employed.

The government later proved that he had administered the deadly drugs to patients and performed resuscitations to impress his colleagues. Most of his stunts failed, and it was believed he killed over 200 patients. The authorities exhumed 130 bodies of patients treated by Högel. Most of them had died from heart-related complications caused by the nurse. The body count was believed to be way higher because some of the patients had been cremated and autopsies could not be done. He was convicted to multiple lifetimes in prison although he said he was genuinely sorry for his crimes.[11]

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