The head of the emergency room at northern Italy's Motichiari hospital in Brescia has been placed under house arrest on charges of murder after he was accused of administering a lethal dosage of anesthetic and muscle relaxant drugs to two coronavirus patients who entered the hospital last March, according to Italian media.
Dr. Carlo Mosca was one of the doctors on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic amid the huge outbreak of cases that hit Italy in the first wave of the virus. In an interview in June, Mosca stated that the hospital was inundated with so many patients that they had to turn the canteen into a ward with 30 beds, adding that the hospital managed 570 COVID patients.
"Every shift was a battle to save as many lives as possible," said Mosca, according to la Repubblica.
During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Italy, and northern Italy in particular, was seen as an example of how bad outbreaks could get, with hospitals overflowing and medical professionals required to triage the large number of patients. Many reports at the time described the situation as meaning that doctors had to decide "who lives and who dies."
The investigation into the alleged murders reportedly began after statistical analysis of deaths in the emergency room at Motichiari stood out compared to other facilities in the region. The deaths occurred shortly after the patients were admitted into the facility. Some five cases were closely studied by investigators, according to reports.
Analysis of the medical records of a number of patients who died amid the outbreak found a sudden worsening of health conditions. The investigators accused Mosca of administering the anesthetic and muscle relaxant drugs shortly after patients were admitted into the emergency room without intubating them, leading to deterioration of their health and eventual death.
Three bodies were exhumed and autopsies and toxicological investigations were conducted, but traces of a drug commonly used in intubation and sedation were only found in two bodies. The administration of the drugs was not included in the medical records of the deceased but instead was included in the records of other patients who were actually intubated, according to local reports.A judge placed the doctor under house arrest as a precautionary measure as he believes that Mosca could repeat the crime or damage evidence.After the autopsies were conducted, the doctor allegedly "approached staff members to agree on a convenient version of the story, even instigating them to declare falsehood," according to an order issued by the judge, adding that, despite apparent awareness of what Mosca was doing, no staff member reported the issue until after a complaint was issued on April 23.
In a WhatsApp conversation, two nurses denounced the murders Mosca is accused of committing, stating that he did so in order to free up beds in the hospital, according to Il Giorno. "Did he also ask you to administer the drugs without intubating them? I'm not going to kill them just because he wants to free the bed," said one nurse, according to the report, with the other replying, "I agree with you, this is crazy."Mosca reportedly asked other staff members to leave the room so he could be left alone with the patient.
The doctor has stated that he is "absolutely innocent" and that he did not administer the drugs and "cannot understand why" he is being accused of doing so, according to Italian media. His first hearing is scheduled for Friday.