After German nurse jailed for life, hospitals may face lawsuit

As expected, a hospital nurse-turned-serial killer was given a second life sentence on Thursday by a court in Oldenburg, Germany, for the murder of 85 patients between 2000 and 2005.

Niels Hoegel, 42, admitted to killing some 100 patients with lethal injections during his third trial on Tuesday. On the eve of his conviction, he revised this number to 55.

More than the life sentence, what struck the world following the seven-month trial from October was the sheer enormity of the crime.

The presiding judge Sebastian Buehrmann called it “unfathomable” and felt as if he was an accountant of death.

The passion with which Högel gave the lethal injection to patients to play ‘resuscitation Rambo’, as he was nicknamed by his colleagues, made one think he must have killed dozens of patients more.

In fact, Högel told the court he was unable to recall everything about his patients and cannot rule out anything.

Judge Buehrmann told relatives of 15 listed victims, whose cases remain unsolved, that he can feel their pain and disappointment.

But one comforting thought for them is that Hoegel will not be granted parole after 15 years because of the gravity of his crime.

What made Hoegel commit such horrible crimes was a craving for recognition from his colleagues and doctors of the two hospitals in Oldenburg and Delmenhorst.

After giving the lethal injection, Hoegel used to play the hero by arriving at the bedside of his victims and starting life-saving treatment which he was good at. Whenever colleagues joined him, he politely declined their offer of help and went ahead with his one-man show until the arrival of doctors.  

Initially, he targeted his victims carefully but picked them at random later.

In 2005, a fellow nurse caught him in the act of administering the lethal injection to a patient in Klinikum Delmenhorst hospital (now Josef-Hospital, pictured). In 2008, he was sentenced to seven years in jail for attempted murder.

After a second trial from 2014 to 2015, he was given life sentence for murder and attempted murder of five patients.

A psychological report submitted to the court in April this year said Hoegel felt no shame, remorse or empathy.

Court records showed the nurse led a happy and orderly life right from childhood. He felt an elation even when sending his patients to death, Judge Buehrmann said.

The families of Hoegel’s victims are now planning to sue the two hospitals where Hoegel worked. They want to bring to justice those who made his crimes possible.

That Högel could kill so many patients without arousing suspicion among his colleagues and hospital authorities is intriguing. If the court takes up the case, investigators may start questioning hospital staff.