A German nurse has admitted killing 30 of his patients by injecting them with cardiovascular medication. The 38-year-old, identified only as Niels H, told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he had wanted to show off his “excellent” resuscitation skills. He is suspected of having killed 178 patients who were in his care at Delmenhorst hospital, near Bremen, in northern Germany, between 2003 and 2005.

The psychiatrist, Konstantin Karyofilis, told a court in Oldenburg that the accused administered a cardiovascular drug by injecting it into patients’ veins in order to orchestrate medical emergencies that would then require him to resuscitate the patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit. An overdose of the drug can lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia and a drop in blood pressure, causing a rapid decline in an already very sick patient.

Karyofilis said the accused admitted to causing the deaths of 30 patients and said 60 others survived. Karyofilis said Niels H felt “fully responsible” for the 30 deaths but denied any further killings. Prosecutors have argued that the nurse wanted to win the admiration of his colleagues and the gratitude of his patients and their families, who would consider him their saviour for having brought them back from the brink.

The admission came as a surprise to the prosecution because until now Niels H had refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. A clinic investigation had only been able to say with any degree of certainty that he was responsible for 12 deaths. Niels H, who worked in other hospitals and at a retirement home in Germany and also as a paramedic in his spare time, is already serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence after being convicted of attempted murder in 2008 after a colleague discovered him giving a patient an overdose. The files of all patients who have been in his care are now under review.

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