Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Could MedTech ever stop a hospital killer in their tracks?

By Ivor Campbell - posted Friday, 15 September 2023

The crimes of convicted UK serial killer Lucy Letby shocked the world, devastated the families of her victims and undermined confidence in a healthcare bureaucracy that allowed her to continue killing and harming babies, long after she should have been detected and stopped.

The failings at the Countess of Chester Hospital, in the north of England, where she worked, were undoubtedly human.

Central to the tragedy was a refusal by senior decision makers to believe that a woman trained to care for grievously ill, newborn babies was capable of murdering and injuring them.


Of course, there is no completely foolproof way to ensure that disturbed and deranged people can never inveigle themselves into situations where they can perpetrate harm. Human nature will always ensure that the most deceitful perpetrator has an advantage over even the most sceptical gatekeeper.

Letby exploited not only the naiveté of a credulous employer, but also the hospital's craven refusal to countenance the possibility that it had a serial killer on its staff, through fear of the reputational damage that would ensue.

Healthcare professionals who kill patients are thankfully extremely rare but this case has implications for hospitals and health authorities throughout the world.

The forthcoming public enquiry will consider all of these issues and it will, in time honoured fashion, publish a series of recommendations aimed at mitigating against a repeat of the Letby case.

Doubtless, many of the proposed changes will concern tightening procedures around recruitment, management, and clinical oversight – but, given the limitations of altering human nature, how effective can they truly be?

Could medical technology have been better deployed to detect what Letby was doing? And could advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and diagnostics hold the key to preventing a repeat of her grim campaign of carnage?


One of the first questions the inquiry will consider is Letby's character. Was she a one-off, or was there anything in her past, or in the patterns of her behaviour, to indicate that she was capable of murder?

While the crimes and victims of Letby are rare, it is doubtful that a form of psychological profiling could have identified any risks in employing her, according to Dr Marissa Harrison,a professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg.

In a profile of 'typical' female serial killers (FSK) compiled by Harrison and her team for The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology in 2015, nearly 40% were nurses, nurses' aides, or other healthcare workers.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

2 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Ivor Campbell is chief executive of Callander-based Snedden Campbell, a specialist recruitment consultant for the medical technology industry.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Ivor Campbell
Article Tools
Comment 2 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy