Hradec Králové - An unprecedented case in the history of the Czech health care system, which shocked Czech public last year, finally reached court today.
In the dock is a nurse who killed seven patients and attempted to murder ten more by injecting them with anticoagulant substance known as heparin, excessive doses of which can cause internal bleeding and become lethal.
The nurse Petr Zelenka used to work at an intense care unit of a hospital in east-Bohemian town of Havlíčkův Brod and it took seven long months before anyone noticed the suspiciously high number of patients dying from internal bleeding in the hospital.
Looking for some action
Thirteen people died in the hospital of heparin overdose. Zelenka, who stands accused of seven murders and ten attempted murders, addressed the court for the first time today.
"The first impulse to kill came out of nowhere. As if a voice inside kept telling me: Give it to them. Give it to them! I had a feeling someone is trying to get me into doing it," Zelenka stated at the trial.
He also tried to explain why he was administering heparin. "I don't know exactly why heparin. Probably because we used it at the department. I injected the drug directly into a vein."
"The common dose is about 10 to 20 thousand units. I used about 25 thousand, if not more. I knew the patients would suffer from internal bleeding but I thought we would try to save their lives. I did not intend to kill them. I just wanted some action. I enjoyed the work," he added.
Forced to admit guilt
Zelenka also revoked his admission of guilt which he had earlier made to the police. He stated the police put pressure on him to admit his guilt.
He claims he was severely beaten by the police officers and was forced to sign the testimony. "I signed whatever they wanted me to sign. I was afraid they would beat me again," said Zelenka at the court.
There was another major change in Zelenka´s testimony in front of the judge today. He had told the police before he was healthy but today he claimed to have been mentally ill. He was allegedly taking 10 self-prescribed pills a day.
The defendant's lawyer Jan Herout repeated he would ask for reassessment of Zelenka´s state of mental health. If the verdict is ´guilty´, the minimum sentence would be 15 years in jail, but he could also get a life sentence.
Four judges will hear over 60 witnesses, other nurses and doctors from the hospital among them. The trial is expected to continue until the end of February.
In the meantime the hospital has adopted preventive measures. "Handling drugs is much stricter now. There is a camera system installed and we run monthly audits," said the hospital's spokeswoman Petra Černá for Czech TV today.