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German doctor arrested on suspicion of killing coronavirus patients

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German police said they had opened a murder inquiry against a senior doctor in the western city of Essen over the killing of two seriously ill coronavirus patients with a lethal injection, authorities.

The doctor, 44, who had been working at the University Hospital in Essen since February, is suspected of having killed two men, aged 47 and 50, who were in intensive care with very severe cases of the disease, Essen police said on Friday.

They said the man, who was arrested on Wednesday, had confessed to one of the killings, saying that he had wanted to spare the patient and his relatives further suffering.

An outside view of the University Hospital in Essen, Germany, 20 November 2020. German media report on 20 November 2020, a senior physician at the hospital may have injected two seriously ill Covid-19 patients with an unknown substance, with both patients dying soon afterwards. The senior physician reportedly had told family members he wanted to ease the suffering of the two patients. The incidents took place 13 and 17 November 2020 at the intensive care unit of the hospital. EPA-EFE/FRIEDEMANN VOGEL

The Bild daily reported that the doctor had informed the patients’ families before killing them with a lethal injection.

Ill patients can request help in ending their lives in Germany under a court ruling issued last year, but it was unclear if this had happened in the doctor’s case.

All forms of assisted death are particularly sensitive in Germany due to the legacy of the Holocaust, when the Nazi regime killed six million Jews and carried out inhumane experiments on a number of them.

The Essen hospital said the doctor had been suspended and that it was helping police with their inquiries.

The western industrial region of which Essen is part of is experiencing one of Germany’s most severe outbreaks of the pandemic, with 166 cases diagnosed per 100,000 population over the past week, far above the government’s target of 50.

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