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Top 10 Medical Serial Killers of the World!

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Medical Professionals are given the status just below God because they have the power to cure a lot of bodily diseases.

People in general would do whatever is suggested by the doctor without thinking twice. We hold the medicos in highest regard.

But what if I say that some of them were gruesome serial killers? Thinking of Dr. Hannibal Lecter?

Thinking that such sadistic medicos exist only in books, movies and series? Then read this list of 15 medical serial killers who will prove you wrong!

#1. Harold Shipman

medical serial killers
Harold Shipman By Wakefield Prison, Link

Country of Origin: United Kingdom.

Nickname (if any): Doctor Death.

Years Active: 1975 – 1998.

Victims Count: 250.

Fate as of Today: died by hanging in 2004.

Harold Shipman was an English doctor who was given the nickname ‘Dr. Death’. Surprisingly, the gore serial killer was generally like by his patients. He targeted older women in particular and he overdosed them with fatal doses of heroin in the form of injections.

Between 1975 and 1998, he killed 250 patients. He even altered the medical reports of his deceived patients to hide his murders. He stole the jewelry from the patients. He went to such an extent that he either forged their wills or he persuaded or coerced them to sign those properties to him.

Unsurprisingly, he received several life sentences for his murders and hanged himself to death in his prison cell in the year 2004. He must be one of the most gruesome medical serial killers in the history.

#2. H.H. Holmes

medical serial killers
H.H. Holmes, Public Domain, Link

Country of Origin: United States of America.

Nickname (if any): None.

Years Active: 1891-1894.

Victims Count: Around 200 (confessed to 27).

Fate as of Today: Dead (died on 7 May, 1896).

Dr. Henry H. Holmes aka Herman Webster Mudgett. He also has other fake names like O. C. Pratt, G. Howell, A. E. Cook, Henry Gordon and many more. As a medical student, he stole dead bodies from the medical school and made fake insurance claims.

He shifted to Chicago from New Hampshire and changed his identity to Dr. H. H. Holmes to avoid exposure from his previous crimes. He then worked for a man and his wife and eventually bought their pharmacy. In Chicago, he built a house which had secret passages, soundproof rooms, gas jets, etc. designed for murder. He even built a kiln in the basement to burn the bodies. Sometimes he sold the bodies to medical schools.

During World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, he used to lure women in false hope of marriage to his ‘Murder Castle’. He then stole their savings and killed them. He was arrested in 1894 and was sentenced to death. He confessed to 27 murders but most of the experts estimate the death toll to go as high as 200.  He was eventually hanged on 7 May 1896.

His castle burned by unknown arsonist in 1895. He is considered as the first serial killer of America and is one of the most brutal medical serial killers of the USA.

#3. Linda Burfield Hazzard

serial killer medical professionals
Linda Burfield Hazzard, Public Domain, Link

Country of Origin: USA.

Nickname (if any): Starvation Doctor.

Years Active: 1900s – 1935.

Victims Count: 18.

Fate as of Today: Dead (died of starvation).

Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was a osteopathic nurse and never received a medical degree. Somehow (most probably due to a loophole) she got a license to practice medicine. Her treatment focused only on starvation to treat diseases.

She opened a sanitarium in WA’s Olalla. There the patients were forced to eat only spoonfuls of vegetable juice or broth to treat any disease. Most of the patients praised her but 40 of them died.

A rich British woman went to the sanitarium and died of starvation. She weighed 50 lbs when she died. After this incident, she was arrested in 1912 and the prosecutors revealed that Dr. Linda forged the will of the patient and took away of her jewellery and other valuables.

She was sentenced to 20 years but served only for 2 years. In 1920, she returned to Olalla and opened a new sanitarium. She continued her treatment till the sanitarium was burned to ashes in 1935. She fell ill in 1938 and she fasted to cure her diseases and she died of starvation.

#4. Michael Swango

Country of Origin: USA.

Nickname (if any): Dr. Death.

Years Active: 1981-1997.

Victims Count: 4-60.

Fate as of Today: Serving in prison.

John Michael Swango was graduated in 1979. He started killing his patients when he was an intern at Ohio State University Medical Center. He was cleared of any crime in 1984. He then completed his internship and joined the same institute as an EMT.

After he joined as an EMT, his colleagues fell so sick that the illness was nearly fatal due to poisoning. After an investigation, it was found that he poisoned their coffee with arsenic. He was sentenced to jail for 5 years.

After his release, he started working in New York State’s VA hospital. After his joining, patients started dying mysteriously. VA hospital discovered that he lied on the application and fired him. After this incident, he came under the radar of FBI.

In 1994, he fled to Zimbabwe. He again forged some documents and landed a job in a mission hospital. The patients started dying even in this hospital. The medical director fired him. He even poisoned his land lady and it is through her hair samples, the information of Swango reached to FBI via Interpol.

The prosecutors presented Swango’s diary in which he boasted about his killings and wrote how elated he felt after killing his victims. He was very close to facing the death penalty in both Zimbabwe and the USA. He then plead guilty and is now serving in prison.

#5. Gerald Barnbaum

blood - medical serial killers

Country of Origin: USA.

Nickname (if any): None.

Years Active: 1976-2000.

Victims Count: Exact number not known.

Fate as of Today: Dead (died on 15 June, 2018).

Gerald Barnbaum was a trained pharmacist. He lost his license due to a medical fraud which took place in mid-1970s. However, medicine intrigued him from his childhood. He decided to follow medicine without any required education.

He fooled both a medical school and California medical authorities claiming that his wife destroyed the original documents. He asked the authorities and medical school to send the credentials and documents of Dr. Gerald Barnes, a real doctor.

He continued his fake degree practice for 20 years! He was first caught in 1979. This medical serial killer misdiagnosed diabetes which led to the patient’s death. He was imprisoned again in 1981 and sentenced for three years in prison. He was paroled after serving 18 months.

The cycle of practice, discovery, imprisonment, and parole continued for four more times. The fifth attempt was made after he escaped custody and started practicing at North Hollywood Clinic. He died at the age of 84 years serving his sentence on 15 June 2018.

#6. Donald Harvey

serial killer medical professionals
Donald Harvey By Ohio Department of Corrections, Link

Country of Origin: USA.

Nickname (if any): Angel of Death.

Years Active: 1970-1987.

Victims Count: 87 (alleged and 37 convicted).

Fate as of Today: Dead (died in 2017).

Donald Harvey was an orderly. From the years 1970 to 1987, he worked in multiple hospitals in Kentucky and Ohio. He was given the charge of seriously-ill patients.

The time he started working in hospital, he started killing elderly and ill patients through various means – by connecting them to empty oxygen tanks, feeding them cyanide or arsenic through food, or strangling them with pillows and plastic sheets.

With his killings going unchecked, his confidence increased and he started targeting non-patients. He even poisoned his lover’s friend with hepatitis serum. He was finally arrested in 1987 when a doctor caught the presence of cyanide in the dead person’s stomach during autopsy.

After investigation, the medical serial killer was arrested. He pleaded guilty to 37 murders (out of which three were non-patients). His lawyer noted that he agreed to have murdered 70 people in total. He faced many life sentences and was serving his sentence in Ohio’s Toledo where he died in 2017 after he was beaten to death.

#7. Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan
Jane Toppan, Public Domain, Link

Country of Origin: USA.

Nickname (if any): Jolly Jane.

Years Active: 1895-1901.

Victims Count: 31+.

Fate as of Today: Dead (died on 29 October, 1901).

Jane Toppan or famously called ‘Jolly Jane’ had an unknown but not-so-good childhood. Her real name was Honora Kelley. She was placed as an indentured servant to the family of Toppans. She then took the name of her benefactors.

In 1885, she started the training to be a nurse at Cambridge Hospital. She was like by everyone and she became close with few of her patients – especially those who are severely ill and extremely old.

She then started using these cherry-picked patients as her guinea pigs. She used to see the effect of drugs like morphine and atropine on the nervous system. She used to spend a lot of time with these patients and sleep on their beds along with them witnessing their death.

She was then referred to Massachusetts General Hospital in the year 1889. She killed few more patients there and they fired her. She met the same fate at Cambridge Hospital. She then became a private nurse.

She started killing people significantly from 1895. She killed her landlord, her foster sister, Elizabeth Toppan, etc. She moved in with Alden Davis’s house to take care of him after his wife’s death (whom Jane killed).

What followed next was gory! The medical serial killer killed Alden Davin’s entire family. His relatives asked for a toxicology test. The results came out – death due to poisoning. She was arrested in 1901 and confessed to 31 murders in 1902.

She was not found guilty due to her insanity and sent her to Taunton Insane Hospital. She died on 17 August 1938.

#8. Niels Högel


Country of Origin: Germany.

Nickname (if any): None.

Years Active: 2000-2005.

Victims Count: 85+.

Fate as of Today: Serving life imprisonment.

Niels Högel was a German nurse. He had fun in putting patients in risk and then try to resuscitate them back to normalcy thereby gaining attention and praises. He joined Oldenburg Clinic in 1999 and soon after starting, he started administering patients lethal doses of unnecessary medicines. The clinic observed the increased number of cases of deaths and resuscitations.

After a meeting, he was shifted to a different branch in the clinic. The earlier branch saw reduction in deaths and the branch that he joined saw unusual spike in serious cases.

In 2002, he shifted to another clinic – Delmenhorst Clinic. The same story followed – he joined, he was respected, the cases of deaths and resuscitations increased. His co-workers had their suspicions but his seniors and doctors had no doubts on him.

On 22 June 2005, his colleagues caught him manipulating a patient’s syringe. In June 2008, he was sentenced to 7.5 years of jail and life-long employment ban. In 2015, the police started another investigation against him.

In this investigation, he admitted to have given wrong injections to 90 patients, out of which 30 died. Further investigation proved that he administered unnecessary medications to over 500 patients out of which 134 died. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. He is certainly one of the horrible medical serial killers of Germany.

#9. William Hare and William Burke

Country of Origin: England.

Nickname (if any): None.

Years Active: 1827-1828.

Victims Count: Exact number not known.

Fate as of Today: Dead.

William Hare and William Burke, two medical serial killers, had different upbringing. Burke was from a middle-class family and he worked in militia. Hare had somewhat of a tough life. Hare married the lodge owner’s wife (where he was lodged). He started running the lodge. Burke and Hare met at Edinburgh and became friends. Burke and his wife moved into Hare’s lodge.

One of the lodgers of Hare died and they decided to sell his body to the anatomists (where bodies for anatomy were scarce). They sold the body and earned 7 pounds 10 shillings. This made them realize that they can earn big by selling dead bodies.

They started killing the lodgers and sold their bodies to Dr. Knox for 8 to 10 pounds each. They gave dead bodies to Dr. Knox and his students for a little over a year.  Lastly, they were arrested and Hare agreed to testify against Burke. Hare was charged for a single murder and Burke was hanged on 28 January 1829 in front of 20,000 spectators.

Ironically, his body was donated to anatomists and he was publicly dissected.

#10. Lainz Angels of Death


Country of Origin: Austria.

Nickname (if any): None.

Years Active: 1983-1989.

Victims Count: Exact number not known.

Fate as of Today: All four released.

Four women – Maria Gruber, Irene Leidolf, Waltraud Wagner, and Stephanija Meyer were medical serial killers whose actions shook the entire country of Austria. They were nurses.

The first one to kill was Waltraud Wagner. She then recruited Maria, Irene and Stephanija in killing patients. Earlier the tactic they used for killing was giving lethal doses of insulin, other medications, etc.

Then, they invented a new way to kill patients (mostly elderly). One of the four used to pinch the patient’s nose and the other would pour water in the water wich leads to the entrance of water into the lungs.

By this technique, they would simply drown in their bed. Waltraud and Leidoff received life sentence and Mayer and Gruber received 20 years and 15 years respectively of imprisonment.

All four of the angels were released from the jail due to their good behavior.

Did you like our list on medical serial killers? If you want us to write more, do comment us below.

Sources: Mental Floss, Mdlinx.com

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