White Coat Devils – Part 1

In the summer and fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper surreptitiously maimed and murdered prostitutes in Whitechapel, an impoverished district of London, England.  At the time, Whitechapel was a labyrinth, a maze of cobblestone streets, dark alleyways, and shanty apartment buildings.  It was, more or less, the perfect milieu for the perfect killer. 

In August 1888, the Ripper’s rampage began.  On August 31, Jack dispatched Mary Ann Nichols.  Her body was found in an alleyway, her throat cut, abdomen slashed.  On September 8, Jack killed Annie Chapman, removed her uterus, and left her in a doorway.  On September 30, Jack killed Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.  At approximately 1:00 am, the Ripper cut Stride’s throat, and left her in a narrow yard.  Shortly after Stride, the Ripper slit Eddowes’ throat, mutilated her body, and withdrew a kidney.  And finally, on November 9, Jack savagely destroyed Mary Jane Kelly, leaving her body in tatters strewn around her room. 

As of yet, we know little about Jack, other than he was a virtuoso with a blade and knew a lot about human anatomy: inside and out.  Nevertheless, we can pontificate.  In 1988, FBI Profiler John Douglas reviewed the case; in it, he noted that Jack removed kidneys, acknowledging Jack’s anatomical knowledge.  Due to this knowledge, Douglas believed Jack to have been a mortician’s assistant or assistant medical examiner.  Albeit Jack probably wasn’t a physician or a nurse, many serial killers have and continue to be found in the medical field and have far bigger body counts.

Serial Murder and Healthcare

At any given time in the United States, there’s an estimated 35 to 50 active serial killers.  And out of those 35 to 50 killers, some will wear white coats.  

Generally, a serial killer is defined as someone who kills three or more people with a “cooling off” period between killings.  Obviously, definitions differ, but most serial killers fit this description.  And most serial killers murder over a long period of time, making them more difficult to catch. 

As history dictates, it’s difficult enough just to catch a serial killer when they’re out and about prowling the streets, let alone roaming hospital hallways. 

In 1866, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a short story about the nature of good and evil and the duality of man.  As a writer and artist, Stevenson didn’t just randomly or mistakenly choose to make Dr. Jekyll – a respected Victorian physician – turn into Mr. Hyde – an ice-cold killer.  Instead, he used Dr. Jekyll – a physician – to represent the embodiment of man: someone whom can both giveth life and also just taketh away.   

Over the next few weeks, I’ll delve deep into the duality of man.  I’ll discuss Dr. H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, Richard Angelo, and the Lainz Angels of Death.  As clinicians, we seldom acknowledge the monsters in our midst.  I’ll do my best to illuminate them, their motives, and their nature.

Originally posted on www.mightynurse.com, by Joshua M. Felts.

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