What is an angel of death killer? Are they bringers of mercy, or cold-blooded serial murderers? Criminals in this sub-type can be male or female. Regardless of gender, they all share a few common traits.
Most of the time, they work as doctors or nurses and have a penchant for both saving and taking lives. What motivates their behavior? Since it’s too complicated to fit into 2 or 3 paragraphs, you’ll have to keep reading to see what makes them tick, a few real life examples, and how they’ve been represented in the world of pop culture!
We’ll do our best to give you all the bare bone essentials. Don’t be surprised if you end up on a 4 hour YouTube binge after you reach the bottom (we know how addicting true crime can be). Brew a cup of your favorite coffee and let the aroma allow you to drift into the darker side of humanity!
What Is An Angel Of Death Killer?
Before we go over the 3 main sub-types, it’s important to note that incidents like these are extremely rare, especially compared to other violent crimes. As we briefly mentioned in the intro, this sub-type can be either male or female. They are usually a doctor or nurse who, for some reason, feels the need to exercise their power and authority over one or more patients.
In the worst cases, some doctors have taken close to 200 victims throughout their career! One of the most terrifying things about this type is that we’re taught to trust doctors and nurses with the care of our lives. They’re one of the few human beings whose main job description literally gives them the responsibility to look after, advise, and nurture us back to health.
What would drive someone in such a well-respected career to murder, again and again?
What Are The 3 Sub-Types?
Even within this specific classification, there are 3 additional sub-type categories. They tend to slightly differ in terms of why they do what they do. Upon first glance, some of them seem to have arguably selfless intentions. Once the smoke clears – it becomes very clear that their actions are anything but selfless.
Here are the 3 main sub-type categories:
- Malignant hero
Two out of the three look pretty menacing right away, but wait until you see how each one’s different from the next!
Mercy – In Whose Eyes?
The mercy sub-type is represented by doctors or nurses who, in their mind, feel like they’re saving the patient. Saving them from what? Let’s say they have a terminally ill patient that doesn’t seem to be making any progress. In the mind of doctors in this category, they perceive the act of murder as an act of mercy. Mercy from a life of prolonged torment, pain, or misery.
At least, that’s how it starts in the beginning. Just like many other murderous criminals, their behavior continues to escalate until they start prematurely ending the lives of healthier patients that aren’t in severe agony. Many people consider Jack Kevorkian to fit in this category. (You’ll want to watch his CNN interview below.)
Sadistic – Power & Control
The sadistic sub-type is more straightforward in the sense that they commit murder because they like to exercise ultimate control over their victims. They usually experience great pleasure from either seeing the painful end take place or exerting control and authority over their victims.
By nature, they have a personality that craves seeing other human beings in pain. For one reason or another, killers of this type simply can’t resist the urge to abuse their power and authority. Although they’re not quite the same as a lust killer, they do share a few similarities.
Malignant Hero – Create A Problem To Solve
Labeling the third type as a malignant hero is a pretty blatant oxymoron. They are arguably one of the most deranged out of all three categories. Why? Well, because they enjoy bringing a patient close (or on) the brink of death just to bring them back.
They thoroughly enjoy toying with the same victims their supposed to be saving from excruciating pain. Instead, they choose to cause it. In many cases, they even pretend like they “did everything they could” to resuscitate their victim – knowing full well that they:
- Caused the near death experience to happen
- Could’ve prevented what they initiated
That way, they get the satisfaction of not only submitting to their sadistic tendencies, but also being congratulated for “trying their best”. This is a little bit off topic, but the malignant hero phenomenon also rears its ugly head in other serial offenders such as arsonists.
An arsonist of this type could be a firefighter or your average citizen (at least that’s what they appear to be). Often times, they will purposely start a fire, then return to the scene of the crime and help put it out. They are seeking the same exact response as the nurse or doctor (congratulations and sadistic pleasure).
Their dichotomous existence places them among other dangerous criminals who commit similar crimes. Their ability to comfort the victims family while at the same time holding a bloody knife behind their back is as cold-blooded and callous as it gets.
Aren’t All 3 Sub-Types Extremely Sadistic?
Of course, you could pretty easily make the argument that all 3 exhibit sadistic traits (for obvious reasons). That being said, each individual classification is necessary for finding a clear motive to help convict them at their trial. They’re also extremely important because it helps explain the behavior and unearth their specific pathology.
Now that you have a pretty solid grasp on the basics, take a look at a few of the most infamous examples below!
A Few Infamous Examples – Do You Recognize Any Names?
As rare as this sub-type is, there are a handful of pretty infamous examples. You might recognize one or two names, but the others are less well-known compared to serial murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer or Richard Ramirez.
Here are a few of the most infamous examples representing all 3 sub-types:
- H.H. Holmes (confessed to 27 murders)
- Beverly Allitt (4 confirmed victims, 5 attempted)
- Kristen Gilbert (4 known victims, possibly more)
- Donald Harvey (between 37 and 57 victims, possibly up to 87)
- Niels Högel (confessed to 30 victims, investigators claim it’s probably closer to 90)
- Richard Angelo (8 victims, 26 poisoned but “brought back to life” since he was a classic sadistic malignant hero)
- Jack Kevorkian (130 assisted suicides)
H.H. Holmes & His Medical Career
H.H. Holmes (the first known American serial killer) was not only extremely sadistic, but also murdered in order to collect life insurance payments from his victims. Earlier in his life, he was kicked out of the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery for stealing cadavers from the lab. He also fits in a few other serial classifications since he was a pretty diverse example.
Jack Kevorkian & CNN Interview On Euthanasia
In Jack Kevorkian’s case, there is some debate about whether or not he should be placed among the other serial offenders we listed. The argument being, if the patients under his care agreed to take part in euthanasia (technical term for assisted suicide) – is it appropriate that he be charged with first degree murder?
On the other side, there is the possibility that their terminally ill patients may not have “been in their right minds” at the time. Even when you stub your toe, your brain isn’t in the most rational state. Imagine you were dying of a life-threatening disease and could barely string a sentence together. Would you be mentally fit to literally hand the fate of your life to a doctor?
Can he be considered an angel of mercy who actually had provable good intentions? Are all 130 assisted suicides between 1990 and 1998 cold-blooded murders, or a clinically (and patient) approved exit?
Watch his interview with Anderson Cooper in 2010 to see his opinion on the morality behind his actions:
Do you think he can be compared to the likes of Albert Fish, or Ted Bundy? He explains his intentions very matter-of-factly and doesn’t dodge around very many questions. Does that make a difference in your mind, or should he receive the same treatment the same way as any other serial criminal?
While you mull that over, let’s take a look at some of the most popular examples in movies and TV series!
In Pop Culture – Have You Seen Dexter?
In one of the earliest episodes of the Showtime series Dexter, the main character murders his father’s doctor when he finds out that he was killing his patients. If you want to see Al Pacino play a proponent of euthanasia, HBO made a movie titled You Don’t Know Jack (2010) starring Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian that might be worth watching.
There’s also a series on Lifetime called Mary Kills People that depicts a female ER doctor who assists terminally ill patients (off the record) in committing suicide. In our mind, it’s a little bit surprising that there aren’t more movies and TV series centered around this topic.
Then again, it is one of the rarer sub-types, so there may be a steeper barrier to entry (especially since many people aren’t very aware of its existence). Before you start to get worried about visiting the doctor or taking a trip to the hospital, keep in mind that crimes like this aren’t very common.
What Are Your Chances Of Encountering One? 1 in 3,461?
Here’s some good news to lighten up the mood! You have a greater chance of dying by choking on your food than you do being murdered by a nurse or doctor. The likelihood of death by choking on your Friday night pizza is 1 in 3,461. (We didn’t think it was that likely either.) What’s the bottom line?
If you take nothing else from this, realize that evil exists in multiple forms. Most of us are used to seeing fictional monsters in movies like Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The reality is, they can look just like you or I. (We’re not saying you shouldn’t trust doctors or nurses, but maybe you should ask what they think about euthanasia next time you go in for a check up… just in case.)
Medical professionals who wear a white lab coat and stethoscope wrapped loosely around their neck are humans too. Unfortunately, dark psychology can manifest itself in any occupation.
What do you think? Are you surprised that someone like a doctor or nurse could become a serial murderer? Have you seen any movies or TV series that portray an Angel Of Death killer?