There’s an arsenal of documented cases in which medical professionals kill their patients — known as serial healthcare killing.
This has taken place at the hands of nurses, nurses’ aids, physicians and pharmacists. The topic has grown in attention so much that one nurse presented on nurses who kill to an overflow crowd at a recent national emergency nursing conference.
Prisoners on death row are not the only ones who meet their maker via lethal injection. Scores of fatal overdose injection deaths at the hands of nurses who kill come in a variety of delivery methods. From a potassium chloride drip or drastically high doses of diabetes medication given to non-diabetics to the unassuming turkey pot pie or gelatin cup laced with arsenic, cyanide or some other poison du jour, according to news reports.
Raising awareness about nurses who kill
The eerie words read more like a page out of a Stephen King novel, but the truth is nurses who kill are out there and often go undetected for many reasons. They can hide behind fake smiles, professional demeanor and respected medical credentials, making these cases some of the hardest to prove.
Nurses get away with these vile acts because they prey on victims likely to die anyway — elderly patients or the terminally ill — so it does not raise a red flag to colleagues or the authorities, said Gina Carbino, BSN, RN, CEN, clinical education manager with Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
“Nurses have access to critical-care medications, and when people are very sick it’s hard to prove whether it was ill intent to kill or if it was from natural causes,” Carbino said. “So when they die, it’s not a big surprise and you don’t necessarily go investigate the death.”
Commonly called “mercy killings,” it may not seem as pervasive as mass shootings in the U.S., for example, yet the topic made the cut at the 2019 Emergency Nurses Association annual conference when Carbino suggested it.
With more than 4,000 nurses in attendance at the ENA conference, Carbino delivered the chilling historical facts about nurse serial killers. She came up with the idea for ENA after she discovered beta blocker toxicity, which allegedly caused a patient death, she said.
Did her presentation strike a chord? In addition to the room where she presented, there was an overflow room packed with eager attendees, according to the ENA, and the event drew a standing-room only audience. Since the presentation, Carbino has received scores of emails and had numerous people approach her with stories and questions.
How common is it?
Keep in mind that we are talking about serial killers that happen to be trained as nurses. In fact, the number of nurses who kill is quite small, said Beatrice Yorker, JD, RN, MS, FAAN, professor emerita of nursing and criminal justice and criminalistics at California State University, Los Angeles.
“Your chances of dying at the hands of serial killer nurses are rare, …read more
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