Prosecutors in Uruguay have filed murder charges against two nurses for at least 16 mercy killings, and jailed the suspects, the judge in charge of the case said.
The male nurses, 39 and 46, were charged with homicides of patients at a private Neurological Intensive Care Center and a public hospital’s intermediate-level care unit.
A girlfriend of one of the men was charged with covering up information related to the case.
Judge Rolando Vomero, in charge of the investigation, has not said exactly how many deaths are being probed. However, he said that one of the suspects has admitted to 11 killings and the other to five.
Vomero said the accused used various methods to administer euthanasia.
“In one of the cases, the suspect introduced morphine directly into the blood stream, while in another, they pumped air into the blood stream, which resulted in deaths in just a few minutes,” the judge said.
The suspects have admitted they had been driven by a desire “not to see human suffering,” he said.
However, they acknowledged that their patients had not been afflicted by terminal diseases, Vomero added.
Uruguayan Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi told a news conference that an investigation into the alleged killings had been launched in January following a criminal complaint that came from one of the medical facilities.
“A death that occurred soon after gave investigators specific evidence,” Bonomi said, adding that he could not rule out that more people could have been involved in the killings.
Defense attorney Ines Mazziotti said these were “mercy” killings.
“After 20 years in intensive care, or constant stress on the edge of life and death, he could not take it anymore,” she said of one of the suspects, who were not immediately identified.
The nurses worked separately and barely knew one another, local daily El Pais reported. More than 50 deaths could be involved overall, the paper said.
The health ministry has also voiced “deep concern” and said it is working to help move the investigation along.
It also convened the Patient Safety Commission “to help collect information and assist in the criminal and judicial probes.”