French anaesthesiologist questioned over '50 cases' of poisoning: source

Besançon (France) (AFP) –


A French doctor already charged in the poisoning of seven patients was taken into custody Tuesday for questioning over the suspected poisoning of around 50 other patients, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

Frederic Pechier worked as an anaesthesiologist at two private clinics in Besancon, eastern France, when seven patients, aged 37 to 53, went into cardiac arrest from 2008 to 2017.

Two of the patients died while the others were reanimated, and investigators later found traces of lethal doses of potassium in their bloodstreams.

Pechier, who was first charged in May 2017, has denied the allegations and was released pending trial.

The two-year inquiry has led police to expand their focus to "around 50 reports of unwanted events," medical jargon for unexpected complications or deaths among patients otherwise considered healthy, the source said.

Pechier's peers considered him a brilliant anaesthesiologist, and while he was not in charge of sedating the seven patients that sparked the inquiry, his quick diagnostics for reanimating them raised suspicions for investigators.

Prosecutors have alleged he may have tampered with his colleagues' anaesthesia pouches to create operating room emergencies where he could then intervene to show off his supposed talents.

Pechier's lawyers have denied the claims, and in November they accused police of altering declarations he made during his initial questioning.