French doctor accused of killing 9 patients

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By Reuters and Saphora Smith  with NBC News World News
Image: Frederic Pechier, an anaesthetist suspected of poisoning and murder
Dr. Frédéric Péchier, 47, denies the charges.   -   Copyright  Sebastien Bozon

STRASBOURG, France — A French anesthesiologist is accused of poisoning patients during surgery to trigger heart failures and then heroically bringing them back from the brink of death.

On nine occasions, prosecutors allege he failed and people died.

A court in the eastern city of Besançon said it upheld a decision Wednesday to grant the doctor bail, after prosecutors argued he should be held in custody while awaiting trial.


Investigating magistrates have found evidence linking Dr. Frédéric Péchier to 24 out of 66 suspicious incidents that happened during surgical proceedings at the clinic where he practiced, Besançon prosecutor Etienne Manteaux told reporters last month.

"Mr. Péchier appears as the common denominator for these unfortunate and serious events," Manteaux said.

He added that Péchier was suspected of injecting lethal doses of potassium chloride or anesthetics in perfusion bags during benign surgeries. The 47-year-old physician denies the charges.

Manteaux acknowledged that the case rests on circumstantial evidence, but added that Péchier was "omnipresent" in handling the resuscitation of patients after suspicious heart failures.

He said Péchier was the only physician present during all the incidents where traces of poison were found or when overdoses were diagnosed.

The incidents were more numerous during periods of "intense conflict" between Péchier and his colleagues, Manteaux added.

Péchier has admitted criminal acts were committed at the clinic but said he was not responsible for them, according to the prosecutor.

"Dr. Péchier rejects all the charges brought against him," Péchier's lawyer Randall Schwerdorffer told reporters last month. "We challenge anybody to show us any evidence."