The Strange Case of Dr. Kappler: The Doctor Who Became a Killer

Overview

In 1975, Dr. John Kappler, a Los Angeles anesthesiologist, secretly attempted to kill a pregnant patient by giving her the wrong anesthetic. That same day, he tried to kill two other patients. Driving home, he crashed into two vehicles on the freeway. Doctors from the hospital not only helped bail him out of jail, they allowed him to continue practicing medicine. In 1980, Dr. Kappler again attempted to murder a patient. The patient suffered a cardiac arrest. Yet John Kappler continued to practice. Later, in 1985,...
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Overview

In 1975, Dr. John Kappler, a Los Angeles anesthesiologist, secretly attempted to kill a pregnant patient by giving her the wrong anesthetic. That same day, he tried to kill two other patients. Driving home, he crashed into two vehicles on the freeway. Doctors from the hospital not only helped bail him out of jail, they allowed him to continue practicing medicine. In 1980, Dr. Kappler again attempted to murder a patient. The patient suffered a cardiac arrest. Yet John Kappler continued to practice. Later, in 1985, when Kappler yet again tried to kill a patient, he was - finally - arrested for attempted murder but subsequently freed because of insufficient evidence. Then, in 1990, Kappler deliberately drove his car into two absolute strangers, killing one and maiming the other. Kappler claimed insanity at his murder trial, pointing to repeated psychiatric hospitalizations since the 1960s. Voices, he said, commanded him to drive into his victims, just as they had commanded him to kill before. But was Kappler insane or a cunning psychopath? Here is the harrowing story of an anesthesiologist who, despite bizarre and violent behavior, was allowed to maintain his professional standing and continued to work in dozens of California hospitals. Through his investigations Keith Russell Ablow, a journalist and psychiatrist, brings us face to face with the dark side not only of one doctor, but of the medical establishment itself, which looked the other way as Kappler became more and more dangerous.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Dr. John Kappler was convicted of murder, armed assault, and assault and battery after he drove off a Massachusetts parkway and on to a jogging path, deliberately running down two pedestrians in 1990. The incident capped decades of hospitalization and treatment for depression, hearing voices, strange behavior, and fatal or near-fatal incidents where Kappler worked. Almost more chilling than the actual tragedy on the jogging path was the way Kappler's behavior was hidden or explained away by his family, co-workers, and even his psychiatrist. The author, himself a doctor, addresses the question of biology vs. environment in mental illness and also whether or not Kappler really was ill or just faking his symptoms to excuse his behavior. A well-written look at decades of unheeded warnings that culminated in murder.-Christine Moesch, Buffalo & Erie Cty. P.L., N.Y.
William Beatty
This is an unsettling story of how an unstable physician committed harmful acts against his patients and had them covered up by his colleagues and nurse-wife. Anesthesiologist John F. Kappler Jr. continued practicing despite giving near-fatal injections to several patients and shutting off a respirator, almost killing another. He had been hearing voices for several years and had been in and out of hospitals for psychiatric problems, yet no one blew the whistle. Finally, in 1990 he turned his car onto a jogging path and killed one runner--a young psychiatrist who was a friend of the author--and terribly injured a young mother. A detailed report of the ensuing trial that finally put Kappler in prison takes up one-third of the book, and Ablow, a psychiatrist, uses the whole story to plead for changes in psychiatric education and practice as well as for higher social consciousness among physicians and hospital administrators.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029001615
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 9/21/1994
  • Pages: 215

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