A French doctor is suspected of poisoning more than a dozen patients during surgery so that he could show off by bringing them back from the brink of death.
Prosecutors allege that anaesthesiologist Frederic Pechier failed nine times – and the patients died. In total, he is suspected of poisoning 17 people, and has already been investigated in seven other cases.
French prosecutors allege Mr Pechier deliberately tampered with colleagues’ anaesthesia pouches to create an emergency and show off his talents.
Mr Pechier, who faces a life sentence if found guilty, denies the allegations.
His lawyer, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, told AFP news agency that the investigation proved nothing.
“There is a possibility that Dr Pechier committed those poisonings but this hypothesis is nothing but a hypothesis,” Mr Borgne said. “The presumption of innocence must be stressed.”
Mr Pechier, 47, was investigated for the first seven poisonings in the eastern French city of Besancon in May 2017. He was later released but disbarred from practising medicine.
This week he was questioned by police about 66 cases of cardiac arrest in low-risk patients at the clinic at which he worked. The latest accusations are from these cases, involving patients aged four to 80.
Prosecutor Etienne Manteaux told local media that Mr Pechier had been “the common denominator” in each instance, and had been in open conflict with colleagues.
“He was most often found close to the operating theatre” when the cases occurred, Mr Manteaux said, and had made quick diagnosis on which action to take, “even when nothing allowed anyone to suspect an overdose of potassium or local anaesthesia”.
Mr Manteaux told Reuters that Mr Pechier was the only physician present during all the incidents where traces of poison were found or when overdoses were diagnosed.
The incidents were more numerous during periods of “intense conflict” between the anaesthetist and his colleagues, Mr Manteaux said.
Mr Pechier has denied the claims, and his lawyers have accused police of tampering with statements he gave during initial questioning.
“Whatever the outcome of all this, my career is over,” he said on Thursday.
“You cannot trust a doctor who, at one point, has been labelled a poisoner … My family is broken and I am afraid for my children.”