‘Capturing The Killer Nurse’ Shows Dangers In Healthcare Bureaucracy

I didn’t know that Capturing the Killer Nurse was connected to The Good Nurse going into watching it on Netflix. I was about 15 minutes into Falling into Christmas before giving up and turning to this. I debated about writing a post without seeing The God Nurse first but felt it was best to review it as it’s own with the “based on a true story” with Oscar winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne clouding my judgment.

At about an hour and a half, the documentary is relatively short by Netflix terms whereas they’re usually three 50-minute episodes. The documentary focuses on Charles Cullen, who is believed to have murdered over 400 people as a nurse, oftening administering a deadly shot through an IV drip or sometimes directly into the patient’s skin. When he was arrested in December of 2003, he confessed to 29 homicides. Cullen, who has been in prison since and will only be leaving feet first isn’t interviewed, but there is some interrogation footage of him.

No, it’s not really needed. This is more or less a crime story as different people work together to try to stop Cullen before he can kill more people. And after watching this, you’ll realize that very little was done to stop Cullen. The interviews by colleagues and families of his victims shows how brazen he was that he would administer lidocaine to a patient who was highly allergic to it while other staff were in the room. Or he would administered a deadly shot to a patient as her family was only a few feet away and could have prevented him or at least stopped him from getting away.

As someone who spent many days in hospitals as I was in a relationship with someone who was in and out of them as a patient, it’s very easily for someone to walk into a room wearing nothing but scrubs tinkering with an IV drip and leave without anyone getting a good look. People are often coming in and out of the rooms. Some places have their staff wear color-coordinated scrubs were as the registered nurses wear maroon, while the nursing assistants wear red and the technicians wear blue. But are we really paying much attention? Especially during the night when most of the visitors are gone and the patients are trying to sleep, it’s very easy for someone to slip in to a room away from the nurses’ station and adnminister a deadly dose and then slip out undetected.

However, the question is how did Cullen get away with it so much? Patients sometimes die during a nurse’s shift, but didn’t anyone see a pattern that it was always happening with Cullen was on duty? In most cases, patients were administed a deadly dose of digoxin which is used to treat heart failure. Also, some of the patients who died were either set to be released or they had rebounded and were getting better. Well, that’s the angle that the documentary directed by Tim Travers Hawkins and based on the book The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber, who is also credited as a producer, take.

How could Cullen bounce around from hospital to hospital in 16 years while working in the Northeast, mostly New Jersey and Pennsylvania?

Easy, the hospitals just let him go from employment. If they notified authorities, it could affect their liability. Also, one hospital, St. Luke’s, was reportedly going to expand and the only way to get the financing to move forward, they wouldn’t need any wrongful death lawsuits like this on their records. However, they deny that was the reason. Either way, the documentary presents the argument that Cullen’s murders were attributed to corporate malfeasances. Detectives Danny Baldwin and Tim Braun face a lot of opposition from risk management of the hospitals who don’t want staff being interviewed unless they are present.

We don’t know much about Cullen’s past except the typical abuse of family pets. The documentary does focus a lot on Amy Loughren, a single mother of two children, who becomes the one who puts on a wire so the authorities can record Cullen. Loughren was Cullen’s coworker and was also present at times of his killings and even says that she helped give Cullen the vials that contained the lethal doses. Loughren is a good interviewee as well as others. This shouldn’t be a study in the fact that Cullen was last picked at kickball back in the third grade.

It’s about the people, the authorities who knew something was fishy but couldn’t connect all the dots and the medical professionals who knew something was wrong but no one would listen to them. If something had been done earlier in Cullen’s 16-year term as a nurse, dozens if not hundreds more people might still be alive. It doesn’t get above anything more than a Dateline NBC show but it shows that because we’ve made healthcare a big business in this country, human lives are nothing more than someone who can just be laid off without much qualms.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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