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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Offshore Wind Package Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: T...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Head of Offshore Operations & Interfaces

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices