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John Bodkin Adams
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    (January 21, 1899-July 4, 1983)
    Born in Randalstown, Ireland
    General practitioner and anesthetist
    Tried for the murder of his patient Edith Alice Morell
    Acquitted (April 9, 1957)
    Charges of murdering another patient, Grace Hullett, were withdrawn by the prosecutor
    Convicted of forging prescriptions, making false statements on cremation forms and violating the Dangerous Drugs Act (July 26, 1957)
    Removed from the Medical Register (1957)
    Reinstated as a general practitioner (1961)
    Died of complications from a broken hip suffered in a fall while hunting
    Working as an anesthesiologist at a local hospital, he acquired a reputation as a bungler who fell asleep during operations and mixed up tubes, resulting in patients waking up during operations.
    An investigation concluded that 163 of his patients died in suspicious circumstances over the decade 1946-56.
    Of those patients, 132 had mentioned him in their wills.
    He gave patients ‘special injections,’ asking nurses to leave the room before the injections and refusing to tell the nurses what the injections contained.
    He isolated patients from their families and friends.
    On several cremation forms, he falsely claimed to have not inherited anything from the deceased (thus avoiding the necessity of a post-mortem).
    While police were searching his house, he tried to slip two bottles of morphine into his pocket.
    His response to being arrested for Morrell’s murder was, ‘I didn't think you could prove it was murder. She was dying in any event.’
    Many observers felt his acquittal was mostly the result of bad decisions by the prosecution. (Such as trying him for the death of Morrell, who had been cremated thus leaving no direct evidence of poisoning, rather than a patient who had been buried and could be exhumed to have their remains tested for drugs.)
    The judge in his case, Sir Patrick Devlin, later called him ‘a mercenary mercy killer.’
    His brother died in the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic.
    He said about receiving legacies in patients’ wills, ‘A lot of those were instead of fees, I don't want money. What use is it?’
    His explanation for lying on cremation forms: ‘Oh, that wasn't done wickedly, God knows it wasn't. We always want cremations to go off smoothly for the dear relatives. If I said I knew I was getting money under the Will they might get suspicious and I like cremations and burials to go smoothly.’
    He was reportedly the wealthiest general practitioner in England.
    Despite the trial, most of his surviving patients stood by him.
    He served as president of the British Clay Pigeon Shooting Association.

Credit: C. Fishel

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