A French doctor has been arrested on suspicion of poisoning over 50 patients in order to impress his colleagues by stepping in at the last moment to “save” them, according to prosecutors who likened him to a “pyromaniac fireman.”
Anesthesiologist Frederic Pechier has been taken into custody regarding 42 “serious adverse events,” including 20 deaths, which happened on his watch during the 17 years he worked at clinics and hospitals in Besançon, in eastern France.
Pechier interfered with the anesthesia pouches used by colleagues in order to swoop in at the last minute and rescue the distressed patients, prosecutors claim, gaining him the respect of his fellow doctors and the admiration of his victims. And his alleged scheme appears to have worked – his peers reportedly considered him a “brilliant” anesthesiologist.
“If these cases of poisoning are proven, he would be one of the biggest serial killers in the history of France,” said Me Berna, lawyer for several of the victims.
Pechier is already under “judicial supervision,” having been charged in May 2017 with poisoning seven other patients, two of whom died, between 2008 and 2017. All of the victims were otherwise healthy before they mysteriously suffered cardiac arrest, and investigators later found potassium levels five times the lethal dose in their blood.
The scope of the investigation was expanded after the bodies of four more patients who died under suspicious circumstances during operations at a clinic where Pechier worked were exhumed in December to be tested for traces of potassium.
Despite his insistence he be allowed to continue practicing medicine as long as he stayed outside the operating theatre, he was banned from working pending trial.
Pechier maintains his innocence, and his lawyers have complained that the judge’s ban on practicing has placed him in a “complicated” financial situation.