Nurse in Germany Convicted of Killing Patients

A nurse in Germany was convicted of killing 85 people who had been in his care. This article summarizes the story and examines ways we can avoid staying silent when we need to speak out. Nurses Headlines News

The facts are startling:

- Nurse Neils Hogel was convicted of killing 85 people in his care.

- He was sentenced to life in prison (the maximum sentence).

- He killed patients in three different facilities.

- He is the most prolific serial killer in peacetime Germany.

- The judge called his crimes “incomprehensible.”

- Fellow employees are also being charged with negligent homicide.


Wherever Hogel worked, the rumors followed. His patients died after he injected them with a variety of drugs to provoke a heart attack. He said he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he “enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them.” Reportedly, he would administer life-threatening drugs and then come back to the bedside to heroically attempt to resuscitate his victims, tragically earning the name “Resuscitation Rambo” for his efforts and even proudly wearing a misguided necklace of empty IV tubes that was given him as a reward.

Desire for Attention

After being transferred to an anesthesiology unit, a doctor noticed the perpetrator’s attempts to push himself into the spotlight during resuscitation efforts and told him his services were no longer needed. Others noticed his involvement in a large number of cases where the patient arrested and/or died but did not follow up.

Convicted & Sentenced

Hogel was convicted in 2015 and currently serves a life sentence and the prosecution continues to pursue additional cases against him with new convictions this month.

Susanna K., one of those who worked with him said, “In the beginning, you just think it’s fate. But at some point, you grow distrustful.” In the trial, she went on to say that she and her colleagues talked about the events and their suspicions but did not go forward with a more formal complaint. In a country that highly values privacy, they didn’t see it as their business.

Failure to Report

In addition to Hogel, investigations are in the process against six fellow employees in one of the hospitals where he worked. The defendants are accused of negligent manslaughter because, despite their suspicions, they failed to follow up and report what they saw. He went to several facilities and help a variety of positions until he was finally apprehended and stopped.

Breaking the Silence

In the end, it took a nurse to break the “Code of Silence” that made all these murders possible. Frank Lauxtermann, a former colleague of Mr. Högel’s, was the first nurse to break the silence. In Germany, privacy is highly valued and despite suspicions, many felt it was not their responsibility and that they might be reprimanded for reporting their suspicions without absolute proof.


Frank Lauxtermann, nurse, and the first person to break the silence

In the United States, being a whistle-blower is also a risky endeavor, one that takes great courage and often involves personal sacrifice. Many industry whistle-blowers end up losing their jobs and do not have their efforts rewarded in the workplace. “The study of 25 workers who revealed wrongdoing in their organizations such as banks and healthcare found that whistleblowers lost their job either by being pressured out of the organization or being dismissed. At this time, eight doctors or nurses face charges of perjury for their part in lying to cover up the lack of follow-through that made the mass murders possible.

Families of the Victims

Family members of the dead, continue to struggle and ask questions as the process of prosecution unfolds over a timeline of years. The murders started in the late 90’s. The first arrest was in 2006. Several trials have happened since then as the cases grow. Meanwhile, families suffer pain, grief, and loss. Christian Marbach, whose grandfather was a victim, asked: “If it is possible that in Germany more than 300 deaths over 15 years can be swept under the carpet, what else is possible?”

What could possibly motivate someone to do such evil? Dr. Karl-Heinz Beine, a psychiatrist in Germany, examined the perpetrator and said he appeared to be “driven by narcissism and a need to fill a deep lack of self-worth.” In court, even during current proceedings, observers report a remarkable lack of empathy for the victims or their families. Beine went on to say that he hoped this trial would raise awareness of the need for healthcare professionals to report suspicious behavior and to follow-up.

Now 40, Hogel is incarcerated but according to Arne Schmidt, the detective who leads the Oldenburg police investigation into the killings, “I personally am convinced that the defendant continues to live out his narcissism today.”

What Can We Learn From This?

What can we learn from the horrific events in Germany as they continue to unfold? Many questions remain, but we have to search out ways that we can avoid the same outcome. What happened in Germany can happen again here or elsewhere. It is our duty as professional nurses to protect our patients to be alert and willing to take prompt and measured action. If we see something, let’s say something.

Specializes in Psych, Substance Abuse.

I saw something and said something. Next time, I'm going straight to the BON. The perp I reported for elder patient abuse is still employed. He resigned, but they allowed him to return per diem.

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).
16 hours ago, B52 said:

I saw something and said something. Next time, I'm going straight to the BON. The perp I reported for elder patient abuse is still employed. He resigned, but they allowed him to return per diem.

How is that possible? I find it hard to understand. Thank you for speaking out...

Specializes in Psych, Substance Abuse.

Jeastridge, the pt was screaming loud enough for everyone to hear. The charge nurse and everyone else did nothing. I rushed over, saw what the nurse did, and yelled at him. He filed a grievance against me, said he was afraid of me and I was creating a hostile environment. So, HR tucked its tail between its legs and looked the other way. That nurse is twice my size, and some of his actions were caught on camera.

Specializes in ED, Tele, MedSurg, ADN, Outpatient, LTC, Peds.

Report him to the BON and let them know about the camera. I happened to walk in during rounds as a nursing supervisor into a room in a pediatric long term care facility and heard crying behind a curtain. I peeked and saw the a new LPN on her last day of orientation, roughly handling a peds kids with Cerebral Palsy. I had her relieved of her duties and wait downstairs in the lobby while I called my boss the Chief Nursing Office at 8pm. We send her home suspended and she was let go the next day. I never regretted speaking up and thanked God, I walked into that situation. I am not one to make you lose your job but abuse should not be tolerated. Period.

Specializes in PICU, Pediatrics, Trauma.
On 6/9/2019 at 12:35 PM, Cheyenne RN,BSHS said:

"In a country that highly values privacy, they didn’t see it as their business."

My jaw dropped reading that line in the article. I was raised in Germany in the 50's and 60's. It was that very attitude that closed the German peoples eyes and allowed the atrocities that occurred in WW2. It is that attitude that allows people to get killed here in the U.S.A. People don't want to get involved.

That might be okay to a point but I imagine this whistleblower nurse has suffered more than we can imagine. They are the hero here, stopping this murderer by exposing him.

But I still drop my jaw thinking that surely if anyone learned anything in WW2 it should be Europe. Please everyone, it could be your life or loved one next time. "If you see something, say something."

Also then...Let’s do whatever we can to SUPPORT the whistleblowers! If it wasn’t so difficult to do the reporting and the consequences so punitive, possibly more would be less hesitant to speak up.