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Local Texan authorities have said that a nurse, Kimberly Saenz, 35, had been charged with murdering five patients at a clinic in Lufkin by injecting bleach into their veins while they were undergoing kidney dialysis.

Her arrest this week appeared to resolve the mystery surrounding a spike in deaths and sudden illnesses at the DaVita Dialysis clinic a year ago. State records show 19 people died at the clinic in the five months before Ms. Saenz was fired in late April 2008; that number was well above the state’s average rate.

Ms. Saenz was fired on April 29, 2008, after a patient spotted her injecting an unusual fluid into the intravenous tube of another person undergoing dialysis. The police found evidence linking Ms. Saenz to at least five deaths, including three on a single day. She is also charged with sickening five other patients, who survived despite having doses of bleach added to their intravenous tubes during dialysis. If convicted, the nurse faces the death penalty.

The Angelina County district attorney, Clyde Herrington, convinced a grand jury that the evidence against Ms. Saenz was strong enough to charge her with murder in five deaths. She is being held in the Angelina County jail without bond. Her lawyer, John Henry Tatum, did not respond to messages left at his office in Lufkin, a town of 40,000 people about 115 miles north of Houston.

DaVita, which operates 1,400 dialysis clinics across the country, maintains there was nothing in Ms. Saenz’s employment history to suggest she was a danger to patients. The company has also said managers at the clinic could not have prevented the attacks. However, relatives of some victims feel that the clinic should bare a measure of responsibility for not properly supervising its staff.

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This is a fair reminder that clinics and hospitals can be very dangerous places for their patients. There are indeed numerous reported cases of psychopathic doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who murdered patients under their care. The best way to avoid such a predicament is to try to stay as healthy as possible. Frequent and regular visits from families and friends also will reduce the window of opportunity for psychopathic health care workers to murder their patients.
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