Tragedy averted as police stop terminally ill cancer patient before planned 'massacre' of oncologists

Abstract photo of a crime scene
Police were able to avert a tragedy, stopping a patient before he could carry out a plan to kill a number of doctors.

It was a scary few hours for a number of California oncologists recently after they received a warning from police that an armed patient was out to kill them.

In what is the latest incident of violence directed at healthcare professionals, police said a terminally ill cancer patient planned what they called a “massacre” of Bay Area doctors, according to The Los Angeles Times. But before Yue Chen, 58, could carry out his plan, he was apprehended by police on a California highway.

Chen has been charged with three counts of premeditated attempted murder in the alleged plot to kill the oncologists who had been treating him, according to the news report. Police said before they caught him, Chen had driven to a hospital in San Francisco but left without hurting anyone. He then tried another location where he thought one of the doctors lived. He had a notebook with names, addresses and directions to the homes of several doctors and two loaded guns inside his car.

The incident comes at a time when medical professionals face growing workplace violence. The American Hospital Association has focused on workplace violence as a key concern in 2017 and has urged the sharing of best practices to help mitigate violence against healthcare workers, according to an article in Hospitals & Health Networks.

RELATED: 5 ways doctors can protect themselves from violence

Violence appears to be increasing in healthcare settings, fueled by factors such as emergency room wait times, domestic disputes, an opioid epidemic that’s made patients desperate for drugs or addiction treatment, and by a shortage of beds for behavioral health, the publication said.

Not all cases have ended as well as the California case. The tragic shooting death of a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in 2015 by a man officials believe was upset over the recent death of his mother, spurred widespread concern throughout the healthcare industry. While healthcare workers can be taught de-escalation techniques, they have less chance to try to reason with someone who has planned an attack beforehand, experts say.