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An intravenous drip bag
John Campbell/Flickr
All too easy.
SUBTLE MENACE

A suspected serial killer is slowly poisoning hospital patients in Japan via intravenous drip

Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

A serial killer might have been subtly poisoning patients at a hospital in Japan. This week investigators confirmed (Sept. 28) that somebody injected poison into unused intravenous drip bags at Oguchi Hospital in Yokohama, and that the toxin likely killed two elderly patients.

Both patients died after having a drip administered. On the fourth floor where the deaths took place, investigators discovered small holes in the rubber plugs of about 10 out of 50 unused drip bags at the nurses’ station, suggesting the acts were indiscriminate. Testers reported that a toxic surfactant compound found in the drip bag used on one of the victims matched a surfactant present in a disinfectant kept on the ward.

The hospital said the same floor has reported 48 deaths since July (link in Japanese), describing it as an increase but not indicating what the average number was for a similar period. Since these bodies have already been cremated, it is difficult to investigate the deaths. Last month at the same hospital, according to emails sent to the city government, a hospital worker got blistered lips after consuming a drink that might have been laced with bleach. And in the month prior, a nurse’s apron was slashed.

The drip bags were brought to a nurse’s station from a pharmacy on Sept. 17, at the start of a three-day holiday. That would mean less workers would be around to notice anything awry. Police are investigating whether an insider has been contaminating supplies.

Mass murders and serial killings are rare in Japan, one of the safest countries in the world.

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