Colleen is an attorney in the United States, and a solicitor on the roll in England and Wales
It is easy for a cynic to believe that those former patients who bring medical malpractice claims are seeking a windfall. The doctor against whom they are bringing a claim may be forced, via a legal conviction or peer review, to forfeit the license to practice for a specified time or accept complete revocation. The patient may then receive a substantial financial settlement. The doctors and institutions below are listed in no particular order.
1. Dr. Harold Shipman: Killer of Patients by Deliberate Overdosing
Shipman, born on January 14, 1946, is believed to have killed more than 250 patients. At no point did he acknowledge even the slightest error of judgement. Hence, those who have studied his case have been left only with speculation as to his motives.
It is known that at the age of 17, young Shipman witnessed the inroads of anguish caused by his mother’s lung cancer. Her agony was eased into peace by regular administrations of diamorphine. Hence, it could be argued Shipman sought to free others from pain due to a terminal illness. Still, while most of his victims were elderly women, none of those he overdosed suffered from more than the natural aches and limitations inflicted by aging.
Accounts differ as to when the correlation between senior citizens’ appointments with Shipman and their almost immediate deaths began to alert observers. One funeral director noticed the growing number of deaths certificates issued by Shipman. In addition, a taxi-driver felt impelled to report the increasing number of regular, fairly healthy elderly women passengers who never called the service again, after their drop-off point had been Shipman’s office.
Then, the daughter of a deceased mother, a patient of Shipman, found herself and family excluded from their inheritance in favor of a will leaving everything to Shipman. The will appeared to be a forgery. Following a police inquiry and the exhumation and autopsy of the mother’s body, it revealed traces of diamorphine.
At Shipman’s trial, he was found guilty on January 31, 2000, of murdering 15 of his patients and of forging a will. This finding rendered the need for further investigations irrelevant. He was sentenced to 15 life sentences. Shipman realized his only release from bondage was death. Thus, on January 13, 2004, the day before his 58th birthday, he hung himself in his cell at Wakefield prison.
2. Dr. Max Jacobson (Dr. Feelgood): Addicting the Famous
Born in Berlin on July 3, 1900, in Germany, Max Jacobson, having earned a medical degree, left his native land for America in 1936. Once there, having become licensed, he ensconced himself in an office in the affluent upper east side of New York. Perhaps his German origins and immigration being somewhat akin to that of Sigmund Freud gave him a quicker entree into the realms of the rich than he might have obtained otherwise.
At any rate, his office soon became a Shangri-la for the wealthy and eminent. Among his most renowned patients were American President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, playwright Tennessee Williams, and numerous stage and screen deities.
The components of the injections he gave his patients were somewhat vague. Patients knew they were receiving large doses of Vitamin B and other supplements, and trusted Jacobson, who they dubbed “Dr. Feel Good” or “Miracle Max.
One of his most prized qualities seems to have been his attunement to the deepest needs of each patient, sensing the extent to which physical pain or emotional anguish had brought them to seek his aid. In any case, it is clear that amphetamines were one of his primary components.
Hence, this drug, later known as speed, produced galvanizing energy, mood disorders, and lapses in rational thinking. In all probability, Jacobson himself did not fully understand the dangers involved, as he self-injected those same ingredients, with similar consequences.
Jacobson’s growing sphere of renown fell when, in 1969, when 47-year-old former presidential photographer, Mark Shaw, died via a large intravenous dose of amphetamines administered by “Dr. Feelgood”. An investigation uncovered that his staff were obtaining large quantities of amphetamines, which Jacobson injected into his patients.
Hence, in 1975, Jacobson’s license to practice medicine was revoked. Four years later, Jacobson applied in 1979 to have his license reinstated, and was again refused. He died later that year on December 1st.
3. Dr. Jules H. Masserman: Hands-On Therapy
When singer Barbara Noel began to suffer intensifying facial pain, she sought the aid of a psychoanalyst in order to determine to what degree it might stem from anxiety. A disintegrating marriage exacerbated her emotional strain. Hence, she became a patient of the eminent Dr. Jules H Masserman, based on a combination of his credentials and empathic charisma.
Indeed, his background encompassed having been president of the American Psychiatric Association and director of several other prestigious societies, a university professor, and writer of numerous books and articles on various aspects of his profession.
The rapport Ms. Noel developed with him eventually evolved into a drug dependency, lasting eighteen years. According to her memoir, “You must be Dreaming”, After a number of sessions, Dr. Masserman suggested she allow him to sedate her with sodium amytal. Akin to large alcohol intake, it made an enormous difference in Ms. Noel’s mood and behavior. Remembering nothing when she awoke, Masserman told her the drug had released a bubbly little girl who he believed needed this freedom.
Attuned to her growing craving, Masserman began to use it as a tool of control. He might announce, with no notice or reason, she would have no amytal on that day. A deeper torment consisted of giving Ms. Noel his usual instructions to remove any confining clothing, lie down on his couch in readiness, then “accidentally” drop and break the glass vial supposedly containing the substance. Gradually, he seems to have become careless, forgetting the tolerance level of any chemical, if overused. At any rate, after one such sedation, Ms. Noel woke to find Dr. Masserman in the process of raping her.
Immediate confrontation proved overwhelming. Instead she went home and thought through the horror. Could she have hallucinated? Surely her trusted psychiatrist could not have exploited her in such a foul way; yet, she knew he had. When Masserman learned she had reported him to his licensing board, he phoned her to ask if she merely wanted money from him. She assured him she did not, and that she was honestly sorry to be impelled to damage the career of an otherwise fine psychiatrist.
Still, she felt herself to have no choice, in order to shield future potential victims. (Other female patients came forward with similar claims, but accepted financial settlements)
Ultimately, Masserman reached an agreement with his licensing board to relinquish his license to practice for five years. This method would shield him from the stigma of having had his license revoked, and presumably help with its renewal when he became free to request it.
As to Ms. Noel, though appalled by the brevity of his suspension, she could comfort herself by the knowledge that for those five years, women would be protected. Ideally, her memoir would warn similar women, not only against Masserman, but any patient who might consider being sedated to the point of chemical inebriation in an enclosed area.
4. Culver City Hospital 1961: The Death of Jeff Chandler
Actor and singer Jeff Chandler is one of those celebrities nearly as famous due to his cause of death as to his film career. Chandler’s films, such as “The Tattered Dress” and “Female on the Beach” have become far too dated to gain much attention even from late night TV viewers. Still, he represented his time, and reflected the public’s pleasure in light romance and glitterati.
In early 1961, while filming in the Philippines, Chandler injured his back and received injections to curb the pain. Later that year, having returned to America he was admitted to Culver City Hospital California where he was operated on for a herniated spinal disc. This straightforward surgery floundered when a vital artery was inadvertently severed. Five days later he received further extensive surgery in an attempt to remedy internal hemorrhaging.
Given the ensuing public distress, his surgeon Dr. Marvin Corbin refused to discuss details and would only state Chandler’s strength was returning quickly. In fact, it was worsening, and further surgery took place, and again the details of this were withheld from the public.
Several days later, a hospital representative reported that Chandler had developed an internal infection. The number of operations performed will probably never be clear, but it is believed there were at least four, with a fifth kept ambiguous due to a lack of documentation.
On June 17, 1961, 42-year-old Chandler died in hospital of shock. The hospital refused to release any reports related to the surgical procedures that Chandler had received. His ex-wife Marjorie Hoshelle, sued the hospital for malpractice and wrongful death. Although the case never reached the courts the Chandler estate received a substantial settlement.
5. Dr. Michael Swango: Serial Killer
From childhood Michael Swango was intrigued by deaths and injuries. Indeed, he kept a scrapbook of photos and reports of road accidents and similar events involving suffering. His mother, untroubled by this fascination, abetted it by pasting such clippings into his collection.
Like many who later become pathologically lethal, Swango was both academically gifted and able to exhibit whatever traits were needed in reaching a desired goal. Having gone through the grueling process of gaining admission to medical school, he was later nearly expelled after being found to have written false reports on patient examinations he had failed to perform.
Later, in an act of unusual generosity, he bought individual portions of Kentucky Fried Chicken for his colleagues and himself, every one of them, except Swango, endured extreme nausea and agonizing headaches. Whenever he had access to food or beverages, several recipients were afflicted by similar symptoms.
In time, suspicions grew to near certainties. Police investigation unearthed stashes of arsenic and other poisons he could not justify possessing. Consequently, on August 23 1985, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for aggravated battery. When he asked his mother to fund an appeal, she refused, based on her forthright assertion that she believed he was guilty.
Once released from prison, obtaining work in hospitals, an unusual number of patients died, despite their obvious signs of recovery. One patient informed authorities the lady in the next bed was progressing, until dying suddenly after an injection administered by Dr. Swango.
To summarize, following his release from prison, having worked in various parts of America and later Africa, patients died in much the same way. Also, those connected with him on a personal level suffered similar symptoms to those of his patients, their lives jeopardized or terminated.
Ultimately, on September 6th 2000, back in the U.S., Swango pleaded guilty to both fraud and murder. This came about when he realized refusing to do so was likely to result in extradition to Zimbabwe, where he would almost surely have been sentenced to death. It is believed, overall, Swango killed as many as sixty patients. At any rate, given his admission of guilt , he received three consecutive life sentences, and is now incarcerated in Florence Colorado. maximum security prison.
Space limitations here preclude chronicling the criminal acts of Michael Swango. These have been magnificently documented in the enthralling though horrifying book Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story Of A Doctor Who Got Away With Murder by James B. Stewart
6. Linda Hazzard: How a Fasting Cure Resulted in Death
Like many cult leaders and gurus who become destructive, it seems Linda Hazzard hoped to help humankind. Still, akin to such leaders, a worthwhile idea grew into grandiose megalomania. She opened a sanitarium called Wilderness Heights in Washington where state law allowed practitioners of alternative medicine to practice as professionals.
Her treatment of patients consisted of them fasting and being allowed just enough nutrients to sustain their subsistence-and sometimes not even that. Although some patients emerged with a sense of having been healed, at least forty patients died under her supervision. Rather than accept any blame, she attributed these deaths to conventional doctors‘ failure to diagnose their underlying illnesses. It is believed that at least 20 of these patients died of starvation.
In 1912, Hazzard was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, due to the death via malnutrition of the affluent, British Claire Williamson. Weighing fifty pounds at her death, her cause of death could clearly be traced to Hazzard’s treatment method.
In addition, Hazzard was found guilty of having forged this patient’s will, leaving nearly all she possessed to Dr. Hazzard. Sentenced from two to twenty years, she was released on parole on December 26 1915. During the following year, Washington’s state governor Ernest Lister granted her an absolute pardon.
In quest of a fresh venue, Linda and her husband Samuel Hazzard set up a clinic in New Zealand, where she offered dietary and osteopathic cures. This continued until 1920,when she was deemed to be practicing without a license and was prosecuted receiving a fine. The same year Linda and Samuel Hazzard returned to Washington, where she opened a new sanitarium called the "School of Health" Although her medical license had been revoked she was allowed to operate and supervise fasting.
In 1935 the sanitarium was destroyed by fire, she seems to have ceased her efforts at medical work. She did however write several books explaining what she perceived to be the logic of her perspective. Whatever her errors or flaws might have been, Linda Hazzard cannot be justly accused of having been a charlatan. In 1938, her involuntary suicide was brought about by such fanatical fasting as to bring about her own death by self-starvation.
7. Dr. Henry Howard Holmes: Con Man, Bigamist and Murderer
Known as Dr. H. H. Holmes, he wrote of himself that he was born with the devil within him. It is more likely that his father, a drunk who dished out domestic violence and child abuse, psychologically thrashed empathy from the mind of young Henry. His schooldays added more cruelty to his cup; being an introverted egghead, he was horribly bullied by his peers.
In 1877 at aged 16 Holmes graduated from High school and became employed as a teacher. In 1878, he took revenge on a former classmate by killing him with an overdose of laudanum having first ensured that he was the beneficiary of the deceased life insurance policy.
In 1884, he graduated from the University of Michigan's Department of Medicine and Surgery. During his time there he augmented his income with the macabre scam of insuring names and then stealing dead bodies from the morgue, disfiguring them and then claiming the life insurance.
In 1886 he moved to Chicago where he met Dr. Elizabeth S. Holton who employed him in the drugstore she owned. When her husband died, Holmes arranged to purchase the drugstore from her. Soon after the purchase was finalized she disappeared never to be seen again.
The Castle of Death
Holmes purchased a large plot of land close to the drugstore and began the construction of an extensive building that had many ground floor shops including his new drugstore—pharmacy, plus a hotel. The upper floors consisted of his consulting rooms, living area, offices, and a maze of numerous rooms, many without windows, that were haphazardly connected with passageways and doors some of which went nowhere. Some rooms were entered from the ceiling or floor, and there were secret shafts between floors down to the basement.
His building complex was known as the castle, and Holmes was now its king along with the numerous dungeons it contained. Continuing his scam of cashing in life insurance policies both from hotel guests, employees, and lovers, he set about the art of killing.
Incarcerating his victims in his array of secret rooms, he killed them by every form of torture and method. These included gassing, burning alive, hanging, suffocation. starvation, and dehydration, and he also reveled in performing live mutilations upon his female victims. Afterwards, the dead bodies were either burnt, skinned, or dissected and the parts were sold to medical schools.
Apart from the killings, Holmes conducted property scams and frauds. In 1894 his businesses were failing and he moved on to several cities in the USA and Canada. He continued killing lovers and business partners in his pursuit of money. Eventually a trail of evidence plus information from disgruntled debtors led to a police investigation.
Examination of the secret rooms and basement at the castle revealed further evidence including skeletal remains. He was arrested in November 1894 and initially confessed to 30 murders. Only 9 victims could be confirmed, but it is believed he killed over a hundred victims including many children.
He was hanged on 7th May 1896. Apparently it took over a quarter of an hour of hanging before the rope eventually strangled him.
8. Dr. Maxim Petrov: Killing Patients For Meager Financial Gain
While some physicians have murdered patients in quest of the adrenal boost of power or in hopes of significant financial gain, Petrov seems to have done so to obtain fairly commonplace items. Born in St. Petersburg Russia in 1966, Petrov’s robberies began in 1997. At any rate, by early 2000, he had committed 47 robberies and is believed to have killed as many as nineteen patients.
Apparently, exploiting the trust garnered by his credentials, he was able to access a list of patients from a health clinic who were being treated for lung disorders. Petrov would then appear at their homes in the morning, believing they would be alone at that time. He would then state he was a doctor who had come to make sure their conditions were stable. Then, having checked their blood pressure, he “concluded” each of them needed an injection. He would then inject them with an anesthetic and render them unconscious only long enough for him to steal their possessions.
During his thirteenth robbery in February 1999, the victim’s daughter came home unexpectedly. Trapped, Petrov stabbed the daughter to death with a screwdriver, and then strangled her unconscious mother with a stocking. Following this Petrov began to inject his future victims with lethal doses of different poisons. This he hoped would lead the police to believe the murderer lacked medical knowledge.
The police, having made the link between the list of patients and Petrov, simply laid in wait at the remaining potential victims' homes. Thus, on January 17, 2000, Petrov was arrested at a patient's home. While initially confessing to the murders, he later retracted this statement, based on a plea of psychological duress. At his trial, he was found guilty of twelve murders and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
9. Dr. Michael Salmon: Violating the Trust of Teenage Girls
Horrific as it is for any doctor to corrupt the trust of a patient, to do so during a girl’s developmental years can prove especially heinous. While the media has made more young people aware of the harm caused by professionals in various fields, those under age 18 tend to accept, without question, their parents’ choices as to care providers.
Dr. Michael Salmon’s indecent assaults and rapes were inflicted upon girls between ages 13 to 18. An added horror lay in the fact that often one or both parents sat outside his consulting room, assuming their daughters were receiving essential examinations.
Dr. Michael Salmon was born in 1936, and over a series of decades he became one of the primary doctors in the Salisbury and Nottingham areas of England. His predatory behavior seems to have taken place during his work at Stokes Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
Exploiting his role as physician, during ostensibly vital cardiac tests, he touched intimate parts of girls’ and young women’s bodies. In addition, behind a screen, he administered pap tests with neither the required presence of a nurse, nor the wearing of specialized gloves.
One previous patient, as an adult, came forward to testify that, having confided her fear of being pregnant to Dr. Salmon, he performed an abortion. Later, in exchange for his secrecy, he insisted she meet him at his home where, on 2 occasions, he forced himself upon her. His rationale, she stated, was their reciprocal silence and concealment.
Although the abortion claim could not be proved, Salmon was convicted at Reading Crown Court of having committed 2 rapes and 9 indecent assaults. At no point did Salmon admit to even the most minor breach of professional ethics. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail.
10. Dr. Farid Fata: Deliberately Treating Non-Existent Cancers
There is probably no word in any language which resonates throughout the world with the terror of “cancer”. In addition to causing countless premature deaths, the efforts to cure or forestall its impact has driven sufferers to end their own lives.
Hence, it seems inconceivable for a doctor, especially one renowned in his field, to lie or mislead numerous patients as to a terminal diagnosis/prognosis. Still, Detroit hematologist-oncologist Farid Fata claimed to have found multiple myeloma, one of the most deadly blood cancers, requiring immediate and lengthy treatment. At least 553 patients were shown to have been victims of his unnecessary treatments, including chemotherapy.
Ultimately, when prosecuted and convicted, Farid shed tears and groveled regarding his guilt in causing anguish to so many patients, and violating the sacrosanct terms of his Hippocratic oath to do no harm. The court ordered him to return over 17 million dollars paid by medicare and insurance companies. In 2015 he was sentenced to 45 years in jail. His earliest hope of parole will be after 34 years.
Testimonies of 3 of His Victims:
One widow testified Farid Fata had caused her husband to undergo agony until his final second on earth, by drawing out treatment until there was no breath left within him.
A middle-aged man, forced to appear in court with only one tooth remaining, said Fata had subjected him to a course of two and a half years of chemotherapy for a cancer he never had. This resulted in the loss of nearly all his teeth, a misshapen jaw, and the inability to purchase dentures due to the enormity of his insurance bills.
A female patient, told by her original doctor her white blood cell count was low, was referred to Fata as an expert . Still, unlike most patients, she did not acquiesce to receiving the usual treatment. Instead, she agreed to a series of costly but less extreme injections of iron and blood plasma. In time, colleagues grouped together to urge she watch a broadcast during which the arrest of her Dr. Fata was featured.
© 2015 Colleen Swan
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on November 09, 2015:
Hi Stella, I think there is more malpractice then reaches the news. It is so easy, especially when people get older to find ways of avoiding blame. Having said that, I know there are countless kind and respectful doctors, and I am fortunate to have one. Colleen
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on November 08, 2015:
I really enjoyed your article. I think in Fl. we have a new ceiling on malpractice suites on doctors. Many of these doctors need a watchdog. This did not bring down the price of service.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 31, 2015:
Hi Surabhi, I am happy to hear you enjoyed this article. It is always especially nice to hear from someone who is studying law. Having studied law myself, I always found personal injury law the most fascinating.
Surabhi Kaura on October 31, 2015:
Yes, there are horrible cases of medical malpractice. The realm of Personal Injury Law is replenished with lawsuits against hospitals and doctors.
Being a law student, I find it fascinating to read such cases. I mean - how baffling is that eh!
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 29, 2015:
Thank you Surabhi for looking in. I am happy that you enjoyed this. There are some grizzly doctors here, hopefully modern day supervision will lessen future occurrences.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 29, 2015:
Hi Larry, Yes it is disturbing when we learn that apart from financial greed there are those who believe that they are doing good when taking a life. I worry that there are doctors who think "maybe a little extra will help"
Surabhi Kaura on October 29, 2015:
Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Colleen.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 29, 2015:
It is one thing when a mistake is made, but it is truly disturbing when those we trust with our lives choose to purposefully put us in harms way.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 29, 2015:
Hi DDE, It means a lot to know you found the information fruitful and of interest.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 29, 2015:
Informative and new to me. You have created another worthy read.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 29, 2015:
Hi Paula, I too am blessed by having an excellent doctor. I believe for the most part physicians are trustworthy, but it is particularly horrifying when they violate the ultimate life and death trust. Thank you for such a thorough and perceptive analysis. Colleen
Suzie from Carson City on October 28, 2015:
Dear me, not enough that I have an aversion to physicians to begin with!! These Drs you've written of are all news to me. I've surely heard of others and nurses as well. There are evil twisted & sadistic people in every profession.
What never fails to shock me is the BOLDNESS of these characters....bringing on the deaths of individuals in their own homes, during broad daylight! How ludicrous to repeatedly secure life insurance policies on one person after another, with their deaths to follow closely behind.
This in itself is a testament to the vast difference of information sharing and lack of exposure many decades ago to our present day! This could not be done today without IMMEDIATE connection and suspicion! I suppose this anonymity spurred these monsters on to repeat the same crimes over and over.
A very fascinating & informative hub Colleen. I'm so relieved to be a patient to my excellent and professional primary care physician for 30 years!! She's wonderful! LOL......a spine chilling read! Thank you
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 28, 2015:
Hi MsDora, Yes doctors can suffer from mental illnesses, but I believe most of the ones I wrote about made deliberate and conscious choices to abuse their power. Colleen
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 27, 2015:
Thanks for bringing these criminals acts by doctors criminals to our awareness. Some of them were probably suffering from some kind of mental disorder (not trying to lessen their personal responsibilities). Doctors may need to be psychoanalyzed periodically.
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 27, 2015:
Hi Rabadi, I believe their are doctors and lawyers who choose these professions in order to reap dishonest financial gains. It is horrifying to think of such exploitation of vulnerabilities. Colleen
Colleen Swan (author) from County Durham on October 27, 2015:
Hi Ann, Again thank you for your thorough reading and perceptive ideas. Some of the doctors I knew about but my research brought forth the last few. The one which stays with me the most was the last one. It is hard to imagine the cruelty of inflicting that type of emotional and physical pain on anyone and those dear to them. Colleen
O from New York on October 26, 2015:
Such a fascinating topic, to think how
Much trust we give our doctors and how
Much school they go through and after all that they will sometime commit heinous acts, this is interesting, I like your hub im gonna follow you, check out my hubs when you get the chance :)
Ann Carr from SW England on October 26, 2015:
It's unbelievable what some people will do to others, let alone doctors whom others trust. I suppose they decide to work in such careers in order to perform their misdemeanours. Totally evil and depraved. One wonders why though you gave one reason when you highlighted a cruel parent; some learn to be cruel too.
An interesting array of people here, Colleen. You've chosen a variety of people and types of crimes; that makes it all the more interesting and all the more deplorable.
Well researched and presented, as always.