Not-so-Nice Fictional Doctors

This column usually deals with real-life doctors who broke their oaths, committed despicable crimes, and almost always ended up in prison to pay for their transgressions. But in honor of author Mary Shelly’s birthday (August 30, 1797), whose most famous novel, Frankenstein, has been turned into many major motion pictures, we’d like to take a quick look at some of the most dangerous doctors in the history of film.

Surgeon’s Medical License Suspended for “Sexting” During Surgery

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel...ah, never mind.

Dr. Arthur K. Zilberstein, a 47-year-old anesthesiologist licensed in the state of Washington since 1995, has had his medical license suspended after it was alleged that he had been sexting while on duty at his hospital, including during surgeries he was assigned to, among other digressions.

Hanged for Murdering His Boozing, Philandering, Show Biz–Wannabe Wife

A bespectacled, unassuming man who stood only 5’ 3” tall, Hawley Harvey Crippen fulfilled his childhood interest in medicine by graduating from the University of Michigan School of Homeopathic Medicine in 1884, and then securing an MD from Cleveland’s Homeopathic Hospital.

After medical school, he moved to New York and got a job with a homeopathic pharmaceutical company run by a Dr. Munyon. Shortly afterward, he met and wed Charlotte Bell, a nurse, and the couple had a son, Otto. In 1892, Charlotte died suddenly of apoplexy (a former medical term for a stroke). Crippen couldn’t handle the stress of raising his son alone, so he persuaded his parents, who lived in California, to take total responsibility for the upbringing of his 2-year-old son.

He Stood Trial for the Suspicious Deaths of 163 Former Patients

He was suspected of killing 163 of his patients between 1946 and 1956. Many died under suspicious circumstances. It was widely believed that his murder weapon was a cocktail of morphine and heroin, administered via lethal injections. What's more, most of his dearly departed elderly patients included the doctor in their wills; he even assisted in rewriting the wills for some of them. In the process, Dr. John Bodkin Adams became one of Britain's wealthiest general practitioners. Yet when he was tried in court, in a sensational trial in 1957, a jury found him not guilty of the one murder charge brought against him. The bottom line was that there was a mountain of suspicious circumstances, but not a single piece of compelling evidence. In addition, several witnesses who testified against the doctor, including a nurse, were discredited during his trial, making their testimonies for the prosecution not very reliable or believable. As for the money his dead patients willed to him, the doctor claimed that it consisted of fees he neglected to charge those patients while under his care.

Pure Evil: Wartime Japanese Doctor Had No Regard for Human Suffering

Torture techniques conjured up in medieval times, especially the gruesome methods employed during the Crusades, took a giant leap forward thanks to Dr. Shiro Ishii's diabolical imagination. The human suffering he was responsible for remains unimaginable and incomprehensible. He is infamous for being the director of a biological warfare research and testing program of the Imperial Japanese Army that existed from 1937 to 1945 during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.

Surgeon Sneaks out of Surgery…to Run an Errand!

In 2002, a patient was lying face down on an operating table with an open incision in his back, about three-quarters of the way through an intensive 6-hour-long spinal surgery being performed by Dr. David Arndt at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the surgery, Dr. Arndt repeatedly asked one nurse if she could find out if his paycheck had arrived.

Three Botched Plastic Surgeries Led to 3 Dead Patients

They just wanted to look a little trimmer in the tummy and lose a little weight, but 2 patients lost their lives instead during their liposuction procedures. Dr. Peter Normann was an internist, an emergency room doctor, and not a plastic surgeon, yet he performed liposuction surgeries on unsuspecting patients at his clinic in Anthem, Arizona. Dr. Normann never entered a residency in plastic surgery or anesthesiology; he did have about 6 days of training in liposuction and breast augmentation, but he certainly wasn't qualified to perform such operations. What's more, he had no training in fat augmentation, yet he performed a buttocks enhancement plastic surgery on at least 1 patient, who died as a result of gross medical incompetence that led to a critical surgical error. It gets worse.

Linda Hazzard: The “Starvation Doctor”

She got married when she was 18 years old and had 2 children, but in 1898, she left her husband and children to pursue her medical career. Linda Burfield Hazzard had some training as an osteopathic nurse and no medical degree, but a loophole in the law in the state of Washington granted her a license to practice medicine. The obscure law awarded medical licenses to a few practitioners of alternative medicine who did not have a medical degree but were grandfathered in, and Linda was one of the lucky recipients. Her degree described her as an osteopath.

Family Physician Hired a Hit Man to Silence Her…Permanently

Born on the island of Cyprus, Josephakis Charalambous was 8 years old when his parents immigrated to Canada, settling in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although he was close to his mother and sister, somewhere in his upbringing, he came to despise women and view them merely as sexual objects. He was known to engage frequently with prostitutes to satisfy his seemingly insatiable sexual drive and desire to control women. It is said that the reason Charalambous wanted to become a doctor in the first place was to attract women with his professional status. But once he became an MD, women didn't flock to him as he imagined.

French Doctor in World War II Was a Serial Killer

From 1942 through 1944, Dr. Marcel Petiot, a highly respected physician in his community, saw an opportunity to build his personal wealth during the insanity of World War II in Paris. It was a black period in Parisian history, when Jewish families hoped to escape slaughter. It was a surreal time in Paris as World War II was raging; and disappearances were commonplace in the Nazi-occupied city. There was nowhere to turn. Fearing for their lives, Jews couldn't report missing persons to the Nazis.