Brazilian doctor Virginia Soares de Souza could be more prolific than Harold Shipman if it is proved she killed up to 300 patients to free up beds

De Souza is accused of masterminding a “gang of death” involving several members of her medical team

Rio de Janeiro

A Brazilian doctor charged with killing seven patients to free up hospital beds for those with private health insurance may have been responsible for up to 300 deaths, the country’s Health Ministry has said.

Officials investigating Virginia Soares de Souza, 56, are reviewing more than 1,800 medical records at the hospital where she was the head of intensive care since 2006. If the number of deaths suspected of being linked to Ms de Souza is proven, she would have been a more prolific serial killer than British doctor Harold Shipman, who was found to have killed at least 215 people.

Ms de Souza, a widow who worked at the Evangelical Hospital in the city of Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná, is accused of masterminding a “gang of death” involving several members of her medical team. Three anaesthetists - Edison Anselmo Silva Junior, Maria Israela Cortez Bocato and Anderson de Freitas - were also arrested last month while another 13 doctors and 34 nurses have been transferred out of the department.

She is suspected of repeatedly giving patients the muscle relaxing drug Pavulon and turning off their oxygen machines. One nurse interviewed on Brazilian television, who worked in the hospital from 2004 to 2006, said she saw de Souza turn off a life-support machine, killing a patient.

Marcus Michelotto, inspector general of the Civil Police of Paraná, said: “We have been investigating this for about a year. There was sufficient evidence to require the arrest as a medical precaution.”

According to reports in Brazilian press the case came to light after a complaint was made to the health watchdog last year. Since then, at least 50 other complaints have been filed. State prosecutors claim they have telephone recordings that reveal Ms de Souza was driven by a desire to clear beds in the hospital for other patients, whose health care was funded privately. She allegedly said in a phone conversation: “I want to clear the intensive care unit. It’s making me itch. Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life.”

Police added it was unlikely she was working alone given the number of suspected suspicious deaths.

De Souza denies the charges and defended her record at the hospital where she has worked since 1988. In an interview with Fantastico earlier this month, which was approved by magistrates, she said: “I was never careless, I’ve never been reckless, never had an ethical breach or a complaint registered against me, and I practised medicine consciously and correctly.” She said any errors that happened were not intentional.

Last month, her lawyer, Elias Mattar Assad, issued a statement saying the police lacked evidence. “The police are not able to prove a criminal act. They show a body and say that his death happened because of a reason other than that on the death certificate? I challenge them to prove it”

But prosecutors said Ms de Souza would have felt “all powerful” and believed she “had the power to decree the moment when a victim would die.”

It is alleged that in some cases, she gave orders over the telephone to other doctors, according to court documents. Last week, a Curitiba judge ordered the release of Ms de Souza and her medical team on bail. On Monday, police filed a fresh request to arrest her  on the grounds that she was the ringleader of the gang and could coerce witnesses. She appeared in court today as part of the requirement to report monthly while the case is ongoing.

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes