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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 14:29 GMT
Doctors detained in Polish funeral scam
Medical staff are accused of administering lethal doses
Police in the Polish city of Lodz have detained several people, including three doctors, for questioning over allegations that emergency medical staff accepted bribes from funeral parlours to let patients die.

Charges have already been brought against a number of those detained and police expect to charge others, including two of the doctors, on Monday, the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

Funeral parlour workers and paramedics were also among those questioned.

Police say they have a substantial amount of evidence to support last week's media revelations of the bribery racket, in which emergency medical staff are reported to have deliberately delayed patients' arrivals at hospital and administered drugs overdoses.

Drug abuse

The emergency workers are accused of taking money from undertakers in return for giving them early tip-offs about patients' deaths.

Investigators have also uncovered disproportionately high use of the muscle relaxant drug Pavulon - which causes some patients to suffocate - by hospitals and emergency staff in Lodz.

The Health Ministry has now banned ambulance crews from using the drug.

The investigation has spread to other cities

Doctors on an emergency ward in Lodz are also accused of having used lethal drugs doses to kill several seriously ill patients over the last decade.

The patients were allegedly killed after the families of the victims had agreed to use particular funeral homes.

Gazeta Wyborcza reported the doctors were then paid more than $300 per corpse.

Former emergency service workers are continuing to provide more evidence of colleagues who intentionally neglected patients and even deliberately caused their deaths in return for payments from funeral parlours.

The investigation into what has become a national scandal has already spread to other cities and is expected to involve several thousand witnesses.

See also:

25 Jan 02 | Europe
'Patients left to die' in Poland
09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Poland
30 Nov 01 | Europe
EU fears divide Poland
05 Feb 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
Poland's neurologist turned pop singer
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