The deadly price hospital patients pay for the rampant corruption and mob activity in southern Italy's health system has been highlighted by a parliamentary report suggesting nearly half of the country's unnecessary deaths occur in two Mafia-dominated regions.
There were 126 suspicious hospital deaths in Sicily and Calabria, out of 276 nationwide in the two years from April 2009, according to the review led by MP Leoluca Orlando.
Both Sicily and Calabria are plagued by Mafia corruption. Experts have warned for years that their hospitals have been offering dangerously substandard care as mobsters cream off money.
The Mafia is thought to make millions by ensuring big contracts go to companies they run or own - often in exchange for poor quality goods or services, or sometimes nothing at all.
Orlando said investigations would continue into suspicious deaths in hospitals.
"Ascertaining the truth is a moral obligation we owe to the victim and his or her family and also to the citizens who continue to put their trust in the public health system," he said.
Corrado De Rosa, author of the Mafia expose The Doctors of the Camorra, said: "Healthcare in the south has serious problems because politicians don't know how to administer it properly and because of the collusion with the Mafia.
"This makes the financial situation even worse and the health services cut the quality of the care they give because they haven't got enough money."
But Sicily's regional health spokesman, Massimo Russo, attacked the report, saying not all of the cases had been confirmed as deaths resulting from medical negligence.
"This is highly improper because it creates a climate of distrust that encourage patients to lose faith."
In 2007, the Governor of Calabria, Agazio Loiero, closed wards and declared a state of emergency in his region's health system and called on state intervention to combat corruption.
His intervention followed a series of suspicious deaths in Calabrian hospitals, including that of 16-year-old Eva Ruscio, who died at hospital two days after a routine tonsil operation.
Mafia expert Francesco Grignetti wrote at the time in La Stampa: "The thing that plagued Eva has a precise name: 'Ndrangheta' [feared Calabrian crime syndicate]."
Loiero also said lazy, inept doctors were, in part, to blame.