- A German nurse who was nicknamed “Resuscitation Rambo” by his coworkers has now been handed a second life sentence for murdering 85 of his patients.
- Niels Högel was accused of administering non-prescribed drugs to patients to send them into cardiac arrests in an attempt to show off his resuscitation skills.
- Police say that he may have killed as many as 200, while one spokesperson for a group of the victims’ relatives puts the number as high as 300.
A German nurse was handed a second life sentence on Thursday for the murder of 85 patients who were once under his care.
The former nurse, Niels Högel is now considered Germany’s deadliest post-war serial killer. The 42-year-old was employed at two clinics, one in Delmenhorst and another in Oldenburg. Prosecutors say that between 2000 and 2005, he had killed at least 100 patients between the ages of 34 and 96.
During his trial, Högel confessed to killing 43 patients, denied killing five, and said he could not remember details about the 52 others. He was later acquitted of 15 deaths due to lack of evidence.
Högel was accused of giving victims various non-prescribed drugs to orchestrate cardiac arrests, knowing full well that doing so could cause the patients to die. Police say he did so in an attempt to show off his resuscitation skills. A former colleague even told the German paper, Bild, that he “always pushed everyone else aside” when resuscitating patients. At work, he was even nicknamed “Resuscitation Rambo.”
During trial hearings, Högel said he felt a sense of euphoria when he was able to bring a patient back to life and felt devastated when he failed, CNN reported. He was eventually caught in the act by a colleague in 2005.
Högel has already been convicted in previous cases for homicide and attempted homicide. He was given his first life sentence in 2015 and those deaths led authorities to investigate hundreds the cases of other patients that he worked with.
During their investigation, authorities reviewed more than 500 patient files and hospital records, exhumed 134 bodies from 67 cemeteries, and conducted dozens of interviews.
Police believe that Högel may be responsible for as many as 200 murders, but can’t be certain because of gaps in his memory and because many patients were cremated before autopsies could be performed. One spokesperson for a group of the victims’ relatives says that number could be as high as 300.
The judge in his case, Judge Sebastian Bührmann, said Högel’s actions were “incomprehensible.”
“The human mind struggles to take in the sheer scale of these crimes,” he added. “I felt like an accountant of death.” Bührmann also cited a psychologist’s assessment that the former nurse was a narcissist who liked to cast himself as a hero.
Prosecutors had sought to charge Högel with 97 murders, but the defense argued that only 55 cases had been proved beyond doubt. The defense said that he should only be found guilty of attempted murder in 14 cases and acquitted of an additional 31.
However, the sentencing judge ultimately handed down Högel’s second life sentence in the most severe form possible under German law, which excludes the possibility of early release after serving 15 years.
The court also barred him from ever working as a nurse, emergency medical responder or any other job providing care. “We want to be sure that you never, ever again are able to work in such a job,” the judge said.
A psychiatrist who served as an expert witness during the trial said that while Högel did suffer from personality disorders, showed by his like a lack of shame, guilt and empathy, he was still psychologically competent to stand trial and serve his sentence.
In court on Wednesday, Högel asked his victims’ families for forgiveness. “I want to apologise wholeheartedly to every single one of you for what I have done over the years.”
He added that over the course of the trial, he had come to understand the amount of suffering his “terrible deeds” had caused.
But his apology wasn’t received well by many. Gaby Lübben, one of the lawyers representing victims’ relatives, told Bild that the apology was not credible. “He only acted out his remorse to gather plus points […] He should have stayed silent.”
Hospitals Face Criticism
During the trial, many have wondered how the hospitals managed to turn a blind eye to the unusually high mortality rates among Högel’s patients.
Former colleagues at the Delmenhorst clinic admitted to having suspicions about him. However, all of the staff from Oldenburg said they were completely unaware of his actions. The sentencing judge condemned the staff for being oblivious to the rising death toll, calling their missed observations “collective amnesia.”
The judge ordered eight of Högel’s former colleagues to be investigated on perjury because of suspicion they had lied to the court or had withheld evidence in the most recent trial. According to the New York Times, two doctors and two head nurses from the Delmenhorst hospital have been charged with manslaughter. Meanwhile, authorities are investigating other hospital employees and Högel could be called to testify in those trials.
News of Högel’s sentencing comes amid outrage over the behaviors of other healthcare professionals. On Wednesday, prosecutors in Ohio charged a doctor with 25 counts of murder for allegedly overprescribing pain medications to patients.
Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion
- Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
- The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
- The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.
Ever Given Still in Egypt
An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.
The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.
The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.
Pushing Back Against The Claim
While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”
“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”
It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.
See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)
Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean
- The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
- The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
- Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
- Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.
Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.
Radioactive or Bad Publicity?
After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”
While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.
According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.
Something Had To Eventually Be Done
Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.
The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.
The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.
Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.
“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.
To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.
Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality
- Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
- “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
- Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
- Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.
The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.
In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.
“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.
“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”
“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.
Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.
“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.
“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.
Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts
According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.
Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.
Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.
Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.
Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.
At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.
On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.