Consider willful anosmia — not smelling what you don't want to smell. ("Anosmia" is the word that corresponds to blindness in the olfactory realm.) I'm looking at the case of Donald Harvey, a hospital orderly who — over a period of 24 years — killed something like 70 patients, mostly poisoning them with cyanide. Murder was finally recognized by a pathologist who smelled cyanide during an autopsy.
Once caught, Harvey began confessing:
[A]n unrepentant Harvey described details of his murders matter of factly – “Like he would tell you that he had gone out to get a sandwich for lunch.”...In all those years — all those other murders — why did no one else smell the cyanide? Harvey chose patients who were expected to die and thus absorbing hospital resources for no particularly useful end. The orderly's euthanasia, once known, would have to be stopped. But this activity that would be condemned if discovered benefited the institution that failed to discover it.
“Some of those (patients) might have lasted a few more hours, or a few more days, but they were all going to die. I know you think I played God, and I did,” Harvey said. “I believe God has forgiven me.”...
Was there willful anosmia?
IN THE COMMENTS: billo said:
I'm a forensic pathologist. The ability to smell cyanide is genetically determined, and most people, in fact, cannot smell it or smell it as an unrecognizeable odor (some say it smells more like bleach than "bitter almonds").So, billo, what does this tell us about the hospital missing so many murders by cyanide all those years?
When I was in training, an unsuspected cyanide case came in -- none of the people on the case were perceivers, and we all became a bit ill from the outgassing. After awhile one of the people who could perceive cyanide came in and recognized it. Our Chief then had everybody in the office come in and take a whiff so we would know who could and could not smell it. That way, we could call the right people into the room if we suspected it the next time.