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Dark Corridors: Ten Shocking Stories of Crimes in Hospitals

Updated: Apr 3


Hospitals are sanctuaries of healing, places where the sick and injured are brought for care and recovery. Yet, within the sterile walls of these institutions, some individuals commit acts that starkly contrast with the mission of medical care. From neglect and abuse to outright murder, these stories highlight the darker side of what should be safe havens.

#### 1. The Lethal Nurse: Charles Cullen

Charles Cullen, a nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was responsible for as many as 40 murders over 16 years, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in American healthcare. Using his position, Cullen administered lethal doses of medications to patients, choosing victims seemingly at random. His arrest in 2003 shed light on the chilling ease with which healthcare professionals can exploit their roles for malevolent purposes.

#### 2. The Dr. Death: Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman, a trusted GP in the UK, was convicted of the murder of 15 patients, though investigations suggest he may have killed over 200. Shipman injected his victims with lethal doses of diamorphine, falsified medical records, and sometimes forged wills to benefit from his patients' deaths. His crimes, uncovered in 1998, remain one of the most harrowing betrayals of medical ethics.

#### 3. The Organ Trafficking Network of India

In 2008, a horrifying organ trafficking ring was uncovered in Gurgaon, India. Poor laborers were tricked or forced into "donating" their kidneys for wealthy recipients, with the complicity of some hospital staff who facilitated these illegal transplants. The scandal exposed the dark underbelly of the global demand for organs and the lengths to which criminals will go to profit from it.

#### 4. The Butcher of Rostov: Dr. Andrei Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo, a Soviet serial killer, was a schoolteacher by profession but committed his heinous acts in a medical setting, luring victims under the guise of medical assistance. Between 1978 and 1990, he murdered over 50 people, mutilating and sometimes cannibalizing his victims. Chikatilo's case is a grim reminder of the misuse of authority and trust.

#### 5. The Nurse's Aide: Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey, dubbed the "Angel of Death," was a nurse's aide who claimed to have killed 87 people, though officially convicted for 37 deaths, in hospitals in Kentucky and Ohio during the 1970s and 1980s. Harvey poisoned patients, suffocated them, or let their oxygen tanks run out, asserting he wanted to spare them further suffering. His capture highlighted the need for stricter employment screening in healthcare settings.

#### 6. The Rampage of Dr. Michael Swango

Michael Swango, a licensed physician, poisoned colleagues and patients in the United States and Zimbabwe, with over 60 suspected deaths linked to him. Swango's method of operation was administering lethal doses of drugs or toxins. Despite early suspicions and a criminal record, Swango managed to continue practicing medicine until his arrest in 1997, revealing alarming gaps in the medical oversight system.

#### 7. The Kermit Gosnell Case

Kermit Gosnell, running a clinic in Philadelphia, was convicted in 2013 for the murder of three infants born alive during attempted abortion procedures and the involuntary manslaughter of a patient due to negligence. His clinic, described as a "house of horrors," operated with gross violations of medical standards, performing illegal late-term abortions in unsafe conditions.

#### 8. The Painkiller Epidemic and Dr. Michael Swain

Dr. Michael Swain was at the center of an over-prescription scandal that contributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States. Swain's liberal prescribing of painkillers led to addiction, overdoses, and deaths, exploiting vulnerable patients for profit. His case is part of a larger crisis in prescription drug abuse facilitated by some within the medical community.

#### 9. Nurse Genene Jones and the Baby Deaths

Genene Jones, a pediatric nurse in Texas, was convicted of the murder of a 15-month-old girl and is suspected of causing the deaths of up to 60 infants and toddlers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jones injected her victims with lethal substances, causing inexplicable crises. Her crimes spurred changes in Texas law to prevent health professionals with a history of patient harm from moving undetected between facilities.

#### 10. The Vanderbilt University Medical Mistake

In a tragic error at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a patient died after being administered a paralyzing agent instead of a sedative due to a mix-up in medication. This incident, while not a crime of intent, underscores the grave consequences of negligence and the importance of stringent safety protocols in healthcare settings.

These stories, ranging from premeditated murder to tragic mistakes, underline the vital importance of vigilance, ethical practice, and accountability in healthcare. They serve as a somber reminder that the institutions dedicated to healing can also be settings for some of the most disturbing violations of trust and human dignity.

Hospitals are trusted institutions where individuals seek care and healing. However, there are shocking stories that reveal a darker side to these places of refuge. From negligence in medical care to systemic breakdowns in patient safety, hospitals have been the sites of various crimes that have jeopardized the well-being of patients. This article delves into the harrowing tales of hospital crimes, examining the legal implications, the personal accounts of victims, and the urgent need for corrective measures to address this crisis.

Key Takeaways

  • Investigative reports have uncovered a range of hospital violations, from minor oversights to severe medical negligence and illegal billing practices.

  • Patients at Bridgewater State Hospital faced disturbing medical neglect, with delayed treatments and non-compliance with standard medical protocols.

  • Numerous hospitals in Illinois have failed to provide essential services to sexual assault victims, violating state laws and patient rights.

  • Advocacy efforts in Illinois are leading the charge to protect sexual assault victims, highlighting a strong need for systemic reform and accountability.

  • Personal stories of abuse and neglect from patients underscore the profound impact of these crimes on trust in healthcare and the imperative for ethical care.

Negligence in Medical Care: A Deep Dive into Hospital Failures

The Plight of Sexual Assault Survivors in Hospitals

In the wake of trauma, sexual assault survivors face a harrowing journey through the healthcare system. Many hospitals, tasked with the care of these individuals, have fallen short in providing essential services. A review of inspection reports from 2018 to 2023 highlights a disturbing trend: 23 hospitals across Illinois have been found in violation of state laws designed to protect survivors, affecting over 200 patients.

The failure to deliver on the promise of care and protection for sexual assault survivors is not just a violation of law but a breach of ethical duty. It is a systemic failure that undermines the very foundation of trust in medical institutions.

The consequences of such negligence are far-reaching, with survivors often left without the critical support and services they desperately need. The burden of seeking care is placed unfairly on the survivors, rather than on the healthcare providers who should be equipped to handle such cases.


Number of Hospitals in Violation

Affected Patients



















The data underscores the urgency for reform and the need for hospitals to reevaluate their protocols to ensure they are in compliance with laws and, more importantly, are providing the care and respect that survivors deserve.

The Tragic Consequences of Delayed and Denied Treatments

When hospitals fail to provide timely and appropriate care, the consequences can be devastating. Patients suffer unnecessarily, and in some cases, face life-altering complications or even death. The stories of those impacted by such negligence are both heartbreaking and a call to action for systemic change.

  • In one harrowing account, a patient's infection was noted but not properly treated for months, leading to severe complications.

  • Another patient experienced a delay in receiving surgery after a vehicle accident, with critical medical records unattended for an extended period.

  • Reports of patients being denied necessary prescription devices or receiving inappropriate medication due to misdiagnosis are not uncommon.

The pattern of neglect and the failure to act promptly not only exacerbates patients' conditions but also erodes the trust essential to the patient-care provider relationship.

The table below illustrates the types of claims associated with delays in surgery and their tragic outcomes:

Delay Type


Burst Appendix

Severe Complications

Cancer Treatment

Progression of Disease

Surgical Consultation

Worsened Condition

These instances underscore the urgent need for hospitals to reassess their protocols and ensure that every patient receives the care they deserve, when they need it.

Billing Victims Illegally: A Persistent Issue

The illegal practice of billing sexual assault victims for their medical examinations persists, despite clear legislative prohibitions. Hospitals have been found to bill victims directly, a direct violation of laws designed to protect survivors from further financial burden. This issue is compounded by the lack of enforcement, as there is little evidence of hospitals being fined for such infractions.

In Illinois, the law has been explicit for nearly half a century; yet, the state's ability to issue monetary penalties is muddled by unclear directives on who is responsible for enforcement. The Attorney General's office, while empowered to impose fines, has not exercised this authority effectively, missing out on potential fines amounting to millions.

The financial repercussions for survivors are not just numbers on a bill; they represent a continued cycle of victimization, where the system fails to uphold the very laws meant to offer solace and support.

The following table illustrates the breakdown of enforcement failures and the associated costs:

Hospital Violations

Number of Hospitals

Potential Fines Unissued

Billing for Exams


$1.4 million

Delayed Treatment


Not quantified

Failure to Provide Kits


Not quantified

Survivors seeking assistance from the Attorney General's office often find themselves entangled in bureaucratic red tape, with some cases of illegal billing lingering in collections for over a year. The emotional toll of these experiences is immeasurable, and the need for systemic reform is undeniable.

Systemic Breakdown: The Alarming State of Patient Safety

Inadequate Protocols and Subpar Medical Attention

In the realm of patient care, the importance of robust protocols and attentive medical service cannot be overstated. The consequences of inadequate protocols are often dire, leading to a cascade of failures that compromise patient safety and well-being. Instances of neglect and oversight are not uncommon, as evidenced by reports from oversight bodies and patient advocacy groups.

For example, a patient with an autoimmune disease, which inherently increases the risk of infection, suffered from an infection that was noted but not adequately addressed for months. This lack of timely intervention is a stark illustration of the gaps in care that can occur within hospital settings.

The failure to provide consistent and thorough care, as well as the delay in necessary treatments, reflects a systemic issue that requires immediate attention.

Moreover, the absence of continuity in care, especially in virtual settings, has been identified as a contributing factor to suboptimal patient outcomes. Patients have expressed concerns over the minimal continuity with providers when receiving care virtually, leading to inadequate monitoring and a fragmented healthcare experience.

The following table summarizes key findings from state investigations into hospital protocol failures:

Violation Type

Number of Hospitals Affected

Failure to offer sexual assault kits


Failure to contact a rape crisis center advocate


Delayed treatment


Failure to take photographs of injuries


Failure to notify protective services


Failure to provide follow-up care instructions


Illegal billing of victims


The Dangers of Involuntary Restraint and Staff Violence

The use of involuntary restraint and the occurrence of staff violence in hospitals are issues that have raised significant concern. The report from the Disability Law Center highlights a disturbing trend at Bridgewater State Hospital, where patients were subjected to forced medication injections and violent encounters with security staff. These actions not only raise ethical questions but also legal ones, as they may violate patients' rights.

The practice of medication restraint, averaging 38.5 times a month, coupled with the aggressive tactics used by security staff, paints a grim picture of the treatment some patients receive. The fact that these restraints were often administered long after the supposed emergency had passed suggests a misuse of such measures.

The data also reveals a troubling racial disparity, with Black patients disproportionately affected by these practices. This points to a systemic issue that extends beyond individual incidents and requires urgent attention.

  • Medication restraint used 38.5 times a month

  • Forced medication often administered long after an incident

  • Policies allowed restraint without an emergency

  • Black patients disproportionately subjected to forced medication

Understaffing is a contributing factor to these problems, with critical positions being severely understaffed. This shortage can lead to a compromised ability to provide adequate care and oversight, potentially exacerbating the risks of involuntary restraint and violence.

Facility Conditions: Mold and Maintenance Neglect

The presence of mold in hospital environments is a critical issue that poses serious health risks to patients, particularly those with compromised immune systems. Reports from the Disability Law Center highlight the alarming conditions at Bridgewater State Hospital, where mold has been found in the HVAC systems since 2018. Despite warnings, the hospital has been accused of failing to adequately address the problem, even hiring an unqualified company to manage the mold removal.

The mold issue at Bridgewater State Hospital is not just a maintenance oversight; it's a glaring example of how facility neglect can directly impact patient health.

The type of mold identified can lead to a range of health problems, from colds and chronic sinus infections to persistent coughing. This is especially concerning for patients with respiratory conditions like asthma. The Disability Law Center has gone so far as to suggest that the hospital should not be occupied until mold levels are safely reduced.

Here is a summary of the key issues identified:

  • Dangerous mold in HVAC systems

  • Inadequate response to mold exposure

  • Health risks to patients, especially those with asthma

  • Recommendations by Disability Law Center ignored

  • Questionable qualifications of the company hired for mold remediation

The Legal Landscape: Hospitals' Obligations and Violations

Illinois' Leading Role in Protecting Sexual Assault Victims

Illinois has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to protect sexual assault victims, with a history of pioneering laws aimed at ensuring comprehensive care. The state's commitment to victim support is exemplified by the stringent requirements imposed on hospitals to provide specialized services. In 2018, a significant bill was passed mandating that emergency room workers receive training in trauma-informed care and that victims have access to a rape crisis advocate within 90 minutes of arrival.

Despite these robust laws, compliance has been inconsistent. A review of inspection reports from 2018 to 2023 highlighted that 23 hospitals failed to meet the legal standards, affecting over 200 patients. This discrepancy between legislation and practice underscores the need for continued vigilance and improvement in hospital responses to sexual assault.

Illinois' approach serves as a model for other states, yet the challenge remains to ensure that laws translate into effective and timely care for every victim.

The table below summarizes the key aspects of Illinois' legislation and the state's efforts to enforce compliance:



Key Requirements


Groundbreaking Law

Care guarantee for victims


Law Revision

Modified hospital standards


Strengthened Law

Training, advocate access, forensic services

Illinois' leadership in this area is a beacon of hope for survivors, but it also serves as a reminder that laws alone are not enough. The real measure of success lies in the lived experiences of the victims and the actual care they receive.

The Reality of Compliance with State Laws and Regulations

The intricate web of compliance within the healthcare sector is a testament to the complexity of maintaining standards in hospitals. Healthcare compliance is a critical process that involves adhering to a myriad of laws, regulations, and ethical guidelines. Despite the clear necessity for stringent compliance, the enforcement of these regulations often falls into a gray area, with multiple agencies unable to reach a consensus on who bears the responsibility.

Advocates for patient safety express concern over the potential magnitude of unreported violations, given the infrequency of hospital inspections. The Illinois Department of Public Health, for instance, conducts inspections triennially or in response to grave complaints, prioritizing based on the severity of allegations. This system, while designed to manage resources effectively, may inadvertently allow violations to slip through the cracks.

The Illinois law aimed at protecting sexual assault victims in hospitals has been criticized as an "empty threat." Hospitals are aware of the lack of enforcement and the loopholes that exist, such as the ability to transfer patients to avoid compliance with certain requirements. The 2007 exception to the law exemplifies this issue, offering an easy out for non-compliant hospitals.

The revisions to the law have not fully succeeded in supporting victims, and advocacy groups argue that even recent changes do not adequately address all concerns, including those related to facility conditions and patient care.

The challenge of ensuring compliance with state laws and regulations in hospitals is ongoing, with advocacy efforts continuing to push for accountability and the closing of loopholes that undermine patient safety.

Advocacy Efforts and the Push for Accountability

The call for accountability in hospitals has grown louder, with advocacy groups and legislators demanding that healthcare institutions face the consequences of their actions. The American Hospital Association (AHA) has taken a pivotal role in this movement, aiming to educate both policymakers and the public about the challenges within the healthcare system. The AHA's Advocacy Agenda for 2024 is a testament to their commitment to addressing these issues.

The push for accountability is not just about policy change; it's a moral imperative to ensure that victims of hospital crimes receive justice and that such incidents are prevented in the future.

Advocacy efforts have led to legislative advancements, such as the strengthening of the Illinois sexual assault survivor law. However, the journey does not end with legislation. It is crucial to monitor the implementation of these laws to ensure they are effective in real-world scenarios. The Disability Law Center's report on Bridgewater State Hospital's mold and medical care issues highlights the ongoing need for vigilance and improvement.

  • Educating the public and policymakers

  • Strengthening laws and regulations

  • Monitoring implementation and compliance

  • Addressing systemic failures

These steps are essential in the fight for a safer and more accountable healthcare environment.

Voices of the Victims: Personal Accounts of Hospital Crimes

Survivors' Stories of Medical Neglect and Abuse

The harrowing experiences of patients subjected to medical neglect and abuse in hospitals are both shocking and deeply concerning. Survivors' accounts reveal a disturbing pattern of neglect and mistreatment that often goes unaddressed. For instance, a report by the Disability Law Center highlights the case of a patient who suffered for months due to delayed treatment for painful cysts, only to receive substandard care that exacerbated his condition.

In another troubling revelation, officers at Old Colony Correctional Center have been accused of using excessive force and engaging in demeaning behavior towards patients. Such incidents not only cause physical harm but also inflict psychological trauma on the victims. The sheer volume of grievances filed against institutions like Bridgewater State Hospital, which totaled 64 from July to November 2023, underscores the systemic nature of these issues.

The failure to offer basic care and respect to survivors of medical neglect and abuse is a stark violation of their dignity and rights. It is imperative that these voices are heard and that serious measures are taken to prevent further occurrences of such inhumane treatment.

The following table summarizes the alarming number of grievances filed against Bridgewater State Hospital, reflecting the urgent need for reform:


Number of Grievances











The Impact of Hospital Crimes on Patient Trust and Recovery

The repercussions of hospital crimes extend far beyond the immediate harm caused to patients. Trust in the healthcare system is fundamentally shaken, impacting not only the willingness of individuals to seek care but also their overall recovery process. When patients feel betrayed by the very institutions meant to protect and heal them, the psychological toll can be immense.

  • Patients' fear of further victimization may lead to avoidance of necessary medical treatment.

  • The emotional distress from abuse or neglect can exacerbate existing health conditions.

  • Legal battles and the struggle for justice can compound the stress of recovery.

The erosion of trust between patients and healthcare providers can have a lasting impact on the mental and physical well-being of victims.

The table below illustrates some of the systemic failures identified in Illinois hospitals, highlighting the breadth of the issue:

Failure Type

Number of Hospitals

Failed to offer sexual assault kits


Failed to contact a rape crisis center


Delayed treatment


Failed to take photographs of injuries


Failed to notify protective services


Failed to provide follow-up care


Illegally billed victims


These statistics not only reflect a failure to comply with legal obligations but also represent numerous individual stories of neglect and mistreatment. Each number in the table is a person whose trust in healthcare has likely been irreparably damaged.

Ethical Perspectives on the Duty of Care in Healthcare

The duty of care in healthcare is a fundamental ethical obligation that requires medical professionals to act in the best interests of their patients. This duty encompasses a range of responsibilities, from providing timely and appropriate medical treatment to ensuring that patients are informed and consenting to the procedures they undergo.

In the context of hospital crimes, the violation of this duty can take many forms, including nonfeasance, where a required act is omitted resulting in harm to the patient. The concept of 'Nonfeasance and its Violation of Responsibility' highlights the gravity of failing to act when action is necessary. It is not merely a lapse in care, but a breach of the ethical contract between healthcare provider and patient.

The ethical standards in healthcare demand that every patient is treated with respect, dignity, and compassion. When these standards are not met, it not only undermines the trust in individual caregivers but also erodes the integrity of the entire healthcare system.

To address these ethical failings, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines and enforce accountability. The following points outline key steps to reinforce the duty of care:

  • Establishing comprehensive protocols for patient consent and treatment.

  • Ensuring all medical staff are adequately trained in ethical practices.

  • Implementing regular oversight and evaluation of hospital practices.

  • Encouraging a culture of transparency and open communication.

Corrective Measures: Addressing the Crisis in Hospital Crime

Reforming Hospital Policies to Ensure Patient Rights

The imperative to reform hospital policies is underscored by the need to safeguard patient rights. Hospitals are increasingly recognizing the importance of aligning their policies with mental health department standards to ensure comprehensive care. For instance, the introduction of new roles such as hospital administrators and psychiatrists dedicated to policy alignment has been a significant step forward.

However, revisions to policies such as seclusion, restraint, and involuntary medication are often met with challenges. Some hospitals have utilized legal exceptions to transfer patients rather than meet stringent requirements, a practice that has seen a troubling increase over the years. This not only undermines patient rights but also fails to address the core issues within the hospital system.

To truly protect patient rights, hospitals must close the gap between policy and practice. This involves not only revising existing policies but also ensuring their effective implementation and compliance with health department guidelines.

A concerted effort is required to address the systemic issues that allow for such discrepancies in patient care. The following points highlight key areas of focus:

  • Ensuring policy revisions are in active use and not merely theoretical.

  • Eliminating legal loopholes that permit patient transfers in lieu of proper care.

  • Reducing reliance on forced medication and physical restraints as default solutions.

  • Advocating for the construction of modern facilities under the control of mental health departments.

Training and Education Initiatives for Medical Staff

In the wake of recent policy changes, hospitals are increasingly focusing on training and education initiatives to ensure medical staff are well-versed in the latest patient consent requirements. The emphasis is on fostering a culture of respect and informed consent, particularly for procedures performed under anesthesia.

  • New guidelines mandate explicit patient consent for sensitive exams.

  • Training programs are being updated to include these consent protocols.

  • Continuous education is crucial to adapt to evolving legal and ethical standards.

It is essential for medical institutions to integrate these practices into their standard operating procedures to maintain trust and uphold patient rights.

The implementation of these initiatives is not without challenges. Hospitals must balance the need for practical training with the rights of patients, ensuring that consent is not only obtained but that it is fully informed and voluntary. This delicate balance requires ongoing dialogue and education among all levels of hospital staff.

The Role of Oversight Agencies in Enforcing Standards

Oversight agencies play a crucial role in ensuring that hospitals adhere to the highest standards of patient care and safety. These agencies, which include federal, state, and local government bodies, are tasked with the enforcement of a myriad of statutes, regulations, and guidelines. Their responsibilities range from routine inspections to responding to complaints and enforcing corrective actions when necessary.

The complexity of the healthcare system often leads to confusion about which agency is responsible for what aspect of enforcement. For instance, entities such as the state Department of Public Health, attorney general's office, and city and county legal offices may have overlapping jurisdictions, leading to disagreements and accountability issues. This fragmentation can result in enforcement gaps, leaving patients vulnerable to the very harms the regulations are designed to prevent.

The effectiveness of oversight agencies is not just in the enforcement of rules, but in the clarity and communication of their roles to one another and to the healthcare facilities they monitor.

To address these challenges, there is a growing call for clearer delineation of agency responsibilities and improved inter-agency collaboration. Legislators and advocates alike are pushing for a system where accountability is not just a mandate but a reality, ensuring that all parties involved are answerable for their part in upholding patient safety.


The harrowing stories and investigative findings presented in this article paint a grim picture of the state of care in some hospitals, where systemic failures have led to crimes and neglect. From the shocking neglect of medical needs at Bridgewater State Hospital to the egregious mishandling of sexual assault cases, the evidence suggests a deep-rooted problem that transcends individual institutions. The accounts of abuse, neglect, and legal violations are not just isolated incidents but indicative of a larger crisis in hospital governance and ethical medical practice. It is clear that for the victims and their families, the physical and emotional scars left by these experiences are profound and enduring. As we reflect on these shocking stories, it becomes imperative that we demand accountability, enforce existing laws with rigor, and work towards comprehensive reforms to ensure that hospitals are safe havens for healing, not hotbeds of harm.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of hospital crimes reported in Illinois?

Reports in Illinois have detailed crimes ranging from hospitals failing to offer sexual assault kits, not contacting rape crisis center advocates, delaying treatment, failing to take photographs of injuries, not notifying protective services, neglecting to provide follow-up care instructions, and illegally billing victims for their exams.

What shocking stories have emerged from Bridgewater State Hospital?

The Disability Law Center has reported instances of medical neglect at Bridgewater State Hospital, including a patient who didn't receive treatment for excruciating cysts for five months and suffered from more cysts due to non-standard treatment protocols.

How are sexual assault survivors affected by hospital negligence?

Sexual assault survivors are often re-traumatized by hospital negligence when they do not receive proper care, such as timely access to sexual assault kits, advocacy services, and appropriate follow-up care, which can severely impact their recovery and trust in healthcare.

What are the consequences of hospitals failing to follow proper protocols?

Failure to follow proper medical protocols can lead to devastating outcomes, such as delayed surgeries, untreated conditions, and increased risk of infection or complications, as evidenced by the case of a patient who needed leg surgery but did not receive timely medical records or surgical consultation.

What legal actions have been taken against hospitals for crimes against patients?

Legal actions against hospitals for patient crimes include investigations by state health departments, filing of grievances, and complaints with the attorney general's office. Illinois, for instance, has seen legal complaints for violations such as discarding rape kits and illegal billing.

What steps are being taken to reform hospital policies and ensure patient safety?

Reform efforts include advocating for stricter hospital policies to protect patient rights, enhanced training and education for medical staff, and more rigorous oversight by agencies to enforce healthcare standards and prevent crimes such as involuntary restraint, staff violence, and medical neglect.

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