Hospital shootings: Unnerving, unpredictable, and often unpreventable

About one in five shootings involve ill relatives

A murder-suicide at a Pennsylvania health system last week has revived discussion of hospital shootings, although experts note that the incidents remain rare and difficult to prevent.

Last week's shooting at Lehigh Valley Hospital—which involved an 83-year-old hospice patient and her 86-year-old husband—came on the same day that hospital staff were meeting to schedule their next active shooter drill. The health system conducts the drills in connection with local law enforcement and EMS, according to a hospital spokesperson.

The hospital's head of emergency operations and public safety said that staff have reviewed last week's shooting but believe it was nearly impossible to prevent.

The patient's husband "was going through the same routine as every other day. There was nothing out of sorts. There was nothing off-kilter that day," the official noted.

study released last year from Johns Hopkins University found that:

  • 22% of hospital shootings were motivated by ill relatives;
  • 31% of victims were patients; and
  • 59% of all shootings ended with the shooter taking his or her own life.

Between 2000 and 2011, there were 154 hospital-related shootings, researchers found, injuring or killing 235 people. Shootings tended to be more common in Southern states and larger hospitals (Wojcik, The Express-Times, 3/24).

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