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Swiss nurse confesses to 27 mercy killings

Suspicions were aroused after deaths at this Lucerne home Keystone Archive

A Swiss nurse who confessed to the "mercy" killing of nine elderly women in July has admitted killing a further 18 elderly and sick patients, according to the authorities. The man claimed he was acting out of compassion.

The 32-year-old man, who has not been named, told investigators that he had put his victims -mostly elderly women – out of their misery by injecting them with drug overdoses or smothering them with plastic bags and towels.

The investigating magistrate, Orvo Nieminen, said in the statement that the man had drugged the patients first, and then blocked their nose and mouth until they stopped breathing.

“As far as his motive goes, he is sticking to his previous comments that he acted out of sympathy, compassion, empathy and salvation of the people involved,” the magistrate said.

“Relieved after deaths”

“On the other hand, he also acknowledged that in several cases he had been overwhelmed by caring for the people involved. He added that in some cases he felt relieved, somehow liberated, after the person had died.”

The first nine deaths came to light at the end of May after ten people died in a special unit for the senile in the central city of Lucerne, where the man had worked since December 2000.

The suspect, whom authorities described as well educated, was arrested on June 28 after the unit’s authorities alerted police. He remains in custody.

Bodies exhumed

Following his arrest, investigators widened their probe to include other homes and hospitals where the man had worked. Five bodies were exhumed as part of the investigation, which remains open.

They traced 12 mercy killings to one home for the elderly in the central Swiss canton of Obwalden and said the rest happened in other homes or hospitals.

Nieminen said the authorities still wanted more information about what motivated the man to end the lives of people in his care. He was also to undergo psychiatric tests.

Euthanasia is tolerated in a number of Swiss cantons, provided strict rules are followed. The Swiss Exit organisation for voluntary euthanasia is also active in the canton of Lucerne, accompanying terminally ill people who have decided to end their days.

Active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland but the authorities often turn a blind eye to cases in which lethal drugs are prescribed to patients to help them end their lives.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR