“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
For all the collective good we doctors have done for humanity from time immemorial, there have been a few bad actors and disappointments to Hippocrates. In this section we showcase some of these grotesque anomalies, Doctors who seek not to heal, but to hurt.
Have any Doctors been Serial Killers?
The two most profuse serial killers in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, were both doctors - men sworn to the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. Why?
The answer may come down to the ability to hide in plain sight. Your doctor is probably the last person you might expect to be deliberately trying to hurt you or your loved ones.
Compared to their peers, killers like “Monster” Aileen Wuornos (6 victims), the “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz (6 victims), the BTK killer Dennis Rader (10 victims), Jeffrey Dahmer (17 victims), and Ted Bundy (30 victims), and others, Holmes had nine confirmed kills, admitted to 27 others, and is suspected in about 200 other disappearances while Shipman had in excess of 215 confirmed kills.
Holmes and Shipman probably weren’t any more adept at covering their tracks, or skilled in subterfuge than their other perverted peers but chose the best camouflage for their serpentine lives. Wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope it turns out, is the best guise for a serial killer to prey unnoticed...
Why do Doctors become War Criminals?
After reading about Mengele, Ishii, and their physician henchmen, you may get a cold chill up and down your spine the next time your doctor offers to send you for "some tests". But you needn't worry. While their crimes were monstrous and substantive, doctors like these are as rare as finding a meteor on Mt Rushmore. The average doctor that you will never read about is quietly and diligently saving lives and sparing suffering for the entirety of their medical lives.
As I was researching this section of the website I found that some of the material that I read made me nauseous and I wanted to look away. But later I started to ask myself: "could I have become a Mengele, or an Ishii? Placed in identical circumstances, could I have turned away from my Hippocratic Oath?" The answer was both revealing, and troubling.
I believe that there are elements within our training that combined with the theatre of war, become an explosive mind altering mixture. The first vulnerability is our iron hierarchical system. As a medical student I was taught to never question the opinion or dictate of a consultant. We were taught to follow a chain of command without question just like a soldier. Mengele and Ishii both answered to higher powers that craved the results these men of medicine could achieve without having to witness the bloody ends used to achieve them.
The second vulnerability is our learnt ability to inflict pain without flinching. Yesterday for example, I injected one patient's heel with a needle one and a half inches long, then a female's thumb and wrist with a similar caliber needle, and concluded the day by surgically dissecting out the cyst at the back of a gent’s head. In each of these cases, I knew I would cause intense pain during the interval between injection and the freezing taking hold. We routinely hold down crying children and prick their arms with vaccinations. Hospitals are palaces of pain where we doctors dispense distress for the good of patients. Combine this with submission to authority, the prowess to inflict pain, and substitute our value system of "for the good of the patient" with politico-military brainwashing of "for the greater good” and an Ishii or Mengele may be born.