The "Skin Hunters" ("Łowcy skór" in Polish)
is the media nickname for four hospital casualty workers from the
Polish city of Łódź, who were convicted of murdering at least five
patients and selling information regarding their deaths to funeral
homes. They were apprehended in 2002. Their descriptive designation
was coined by a newspaper article which first brought the story to the
On January 20, 2007 four employees from a hospital
casualty department in Łódź were sentenced. The perpetrators were
shown to have killed mostly elderly patients using the muscle relaxant
pancuronium (brand name Pavulon).
The four workers then sold information about the
deceased patients to funeral homes, so they could contact the
relatives before other funeral homes could. They exacted bribes
ranging from 12,000 to over 70,000 zloty.
The killers are:
Paramedic Andrzej Nowocień was sentenced to life
in prison for the murder of four patients and for helping Karol B.
in a further murder.
Paramedic Karol Banaś was sentenced to 25 years
imprisonment for the "particularly cruel" ("szczególnie okrutne")
murder of "Ludmiła Ś." and for helping Andrzej N. murder the other
Doctor Janusz Kuliński was sentenced to six years
and banned from practising medicine for 10 years, for willfully
endangering 10 patients.
Doctor Paweł W. was sentenced to five years and
banned from practising medicine for 10 years for the willful
endangering of four patients.
Their sentences were upheld by the Łódź Appeal
Court in June 2008. Further appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court
of Poland on October 27, 2009.
The investigation into the scandal is still ongoing
and a total of forty other members of the casualty department are
under investigation, as are the owners of a local funeral home for
receiving information regarding the deaths of patients.. The funeral
home added the cost of the bribes it paid to the killers to the bills
that the families of the deceased paid for their funerals.
The scandal was first brought to public attention
on January 23, 2002 in an article in the Polish newspaper Gazeta
Wyborcza by Tomasz Patora, Marcin Stelmasiak and Przemysław
Witkowski. They described how the hospital workers or paramedics would
call funeral homes regarding patient deaths in order to receive a
bribe, and sometimes even killed patients. The dead patients were
called "skins" and so the article was called "Skin Hunters" (Łowcy
In popular culture
In 2003, a film Skin Hunters (Łowcy skór)
was made of the case starring Piotr Adamczyk. In 2008, a documentary
of the events, Necrobusiness, was made by a Swedish company.
Łódź "Skin Hunters" Convicted
The Warsaw Voice
January 24, 2007
A court in Łódź Jan. 19 issued a verdict in a case
involving a group of "skin hunters," or local paramedics and doctors
who had been involved in a medical scandal that outraged the public.
Four employees of the local emergency medical service were found
guilty of killing patients.
One former paramedic, identified as Andrzej N.,
received a life sentence for killing five patients, and the other
paramedic, Karol B., who was found guilty of killing one patient, will
spend 25 years in prison. In addition, two former ambulance doctors
received prison terms of five and six years, following accusations of
endangering the lives of a total of 14 patients, who eventually died.
In January 2002, the media reported that the
emergency medical service in Łódź might have traded information on new
deaths and that possibly patients had been deliberately killed. At the
time, the prosecutors charged Andrzej N. with killing four patients by
administering Pavulon, a muscle relaxant, even though the use of the
drug was not justified. Karol B. was accused of killing one person and
assisting in the murder of another four. According to the prosecutors,
the now-convicted men "deserved special condemnation" because they had
been receiving money from funeral home owners in return for
information on patients' deaths.
The two doctors were accused of abandoning
resuscitation or administering inadequate drugs to a total of 14
patients. All four had also been accused of accepting from zl.12,000
to over 70,000 in bribes from undertakers in the course of a few years.
The funeral homes included the costs of the bribes in the bills that
the families of the deceased paid for the funeral services.
Karol Banaś (left) and Andrzej Nowocień.