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New Jersey hospital deaths investigated by prosecutor; RN admits to 30-40 deaths

Posted

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 43 years experience.

A prosecutor is investigating the deaths of several patients at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., where a nurse connected to the patients' abnormal test results was fired last fall.

New York Times, Dec. 12, 2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/12/nyregion/12HOSP.html

Update: Nurse says he killed 30 to 40

The Pa. man is charged in a N.J. priest's death. He said he used lethal drug doses to end suffering.

A nurse charged in the death of a patient at a central New Jersey medical center has told investigators that he killed between 30 and 40 people during a 16-year career at hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

By Troy Graham / Inquirer Staff Writer

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/7500402.htm

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 43 years experience.

Posted on Wed, Dec. 17, 2003

By Troy Graham and Marian Uhlman

Inquirer Staff Writers

Confidentiality rules and the fear of lawsuits could have allowed a nurse who now claims to have killed between 30 and 40 patients to continue working despite several stark warning signs.

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/7508149.htm

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 43 years experience.

The district attorney in Northampton County, Pa., has named the New Jersey nurse accused of killing his patients as a suspect in the case of a 78-year-old whose death may have been hastened by an overdose of heart medication.

New York Times, Dec. 19, 2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/19/nyregion/19NURS.html

where is the pyxis medication storage system?

pyxis.com

it tracks all medications.. no need for floor stock for cullen to steal!!!

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December 23, 2003

N.J. Lawmakers Seek Changes in Hospitals

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 3:18 p.m. ET

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- In his 16 years as a nurse, Charles Cullen was fired from six jobs, quit three others and once was blamed for misconduct in a lawsuit by a co-worker.

Each time Cullen was dismissed or disciplined for infractions that included endangering a patient's health, his new employers never learned of his past.

Now as prosecutors sort out Cullen's claims that he murdered as many as 40 people in hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, lawmakers are pressing for changes to a system they say failed and possibly kept a killing spree alive.

``There was, I believe, a breakdown in the system because it took so long and so many people had to die before this person was captured,´´ said state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale.

U.S. Sens. Jon S. Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, on Monday called for a federal database so hospitals could find out if employees had problems elsewhere.

``Hospital officials continued to hire him time after time because they had no information on him. His ability to commit murder again and again highlights the incredible flaws in the system,´´ Lautenberg said.

The most glaring error disclosed so far was that hospitals were unable -- or in some cases unwilling -- to disclose details about Cullen's background to future employers. State regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also failed to keep track of disciplinary actions and did not report them, legislators said.

Background checks, mandatory in New Jersey for nurses and other health care workers, also failed to offer any hint that Cullen's employment record was troubled. They merely checked employment dates.

Administrators are afraid to say more about health care workers' histories -- even if they knew a nurse or doctor threatened a patient -- for fear of lawsuits, officials said.

``When we are talking about people responsible for public safety, people like nurses, we have got to look at giving employers a little bit of leeway to be able to discuss these kinds of things, especially when someone´s life could be at risk,´´ Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said.

One New Jersey lawmaker already has a bill pending to do just that, but so far no action has been taken.

``We don´t want this to be open season on nurses and employees, if an employer doesn´t like you. You should be able to answer questions truthfully,´´ Sen. Diane Allen said. ``Telling the truth about certain things should be allowed, guessing should not be.´´

Cullen, 43, was charged Dec. 15 after telling prosecutors he gave lethal drug injections to many critically ill patients during his 16-year career at 10 medical facilities.

Prosecutors have filed one charge of murder in the death of the Rev. Florian J. Gall. They also allege that Cullen tried to kill a 40-year-old woman with cancer and heart disease. Both were given lethal doses of digoxin, a heart medication, authorities said.

New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey joined the investigation Monday, meeting with prosecutors from five counties where Cullen said he killed patients. But no decision was made on seeking the death penalty, officials said.

In Pennsylvania, the Northampton County district attorney said Cullen is a suspect in the 1998 death of a 78-year-old man at Easton Hospital.

No bill in the Pennsylvania Legislature appears forthcoming on background checks, but lawmakers have been caught in a 5 1/2 month-old budget impasse.

Hospital representatives would welcome changes that would allow them to share more information about employees, but lawmakers should not force changes, said Gary Carter, president of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

``We keep coming back to saying this is one person´s criminal act. There are tens of thousands of nurses that work in this state. Safeguards cannot always prevent a criminal act,´´ Carter said.

Nursing unions also back efforts that would allow more reporting of problem employees. But the state should make efforts not to penalize nurses who alert authorities to problems and errors in hospitals, said Ann Twomey, president of the state chapter of Health Professionals and Allied Employees.

``Nurses who do report unsafe practice or suspicious activity must be protected from recriminations,´´ she said.

Press Release

Contact:

Sharon Rainer, RN Associate Director

609-883-5335 extension 22 or Sharon@njsna.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 22, 2003

Trenton, NJ: The New Jersey State Nurses Association joins the American Nurses Association in expressing great concern when a nurse intentionally harms a patient. Such cases erode the public's trust in nurses who are crucial to patient care in all settings.

NJSNA agrees with ANA that self-reporting and the duty to report suspicious activities of our fellow professionals is an important safeguard for the public.

Additionally, systems need to be developed that will document and gather data about frequent terminations, high rates of death, high rates of cardiac arrest and other suspicious activities on the part of individual registered nurses.

To further assure patient safety, systems for hiring and educating nurses should be developed that will identify people early on who are unfit to provide patient care.

The Foundation of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, The Institute for Nursing, has a newly developed program, RAMP, which provides a monitoring system to keep nurses with impaired practice in therapy and recovery. Such systems are fully supported by the licensing boards in other states and in fact are supported for physicians in New Jersey.

A major problem worldwide, nationally and in the state of New Jersey is the lack of understanding of the importance of nursing care to the survival of the patient. For over 100 years nursing has been wrongly perceived as a dependent profession that is supervised by administration and told what to do by physicians. The public needs to understand the enormous responsibility that registered nurses shoulder and support systems to require their accountability and reliability just as they have with other licensed professions.

betty's deal: ANY NURSE THAT systematically kills patients using DIGOXIN and pronestyl IV DESERVES TO DIE!

NURSE cullen murdered patients in NJ AND PA.

HE is mentally ill and those wimpy-A** NJ prosecutors MAY give him a LIFE sentence!

I SAY: hand him over to the PA. PROSECUTORS AND FRY HIS A$$!

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January 8, 2004

Nurse Seeks Deal in Serial Deaths: Naming Victims in Return for Life

By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI

OMERVILLE, N.J., Jan. 7-Charles Cullen, the nurse who has claimed

that he killed 30 to 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the past decade, has made a tantalizing offer to the teams of investigators trying to retrace his sprawling trail of victims.

Mr. Cullen, his lawyer says, is willing to help the authorities determine which patients he deliberately injected with fatal amounts of medication, in exchange for their agreement not to seek the death

penalty.

But as police officers and prosecutors from seven counties have begun the formidable task of sifting through the records of thousands of patients Mr. Cullen treated during his 16-year medical career, it now appears unlikely that they will be willing to strike a deal with him any time soon-if ever.

For their part, law enforcement officials in New Jersey, which has 15 people on death row but has not carried out an execution since it reinstated the death penalty in 1982, say they have few qualms about making such an agreement.

Some privately argue that such a move could save time and taxpayer money in an investigation likely to drag on for years and cost millions. They also point out that even if Mr. Cullen were sentenced to death, his history of treatment for mental illness makes it doubtful that New Jersey's Supreme Court, given its makeup and track record, would ever allow him to be executed.

But prosecutors in Pennsylvania have been far more aggressive in seeking and carrying out death sentences in recent years-the state has more than 200 prisoners on death row and has carried out three executions since 1995. And as it happens, one of the Pennsylvania prosecutors involved in the Cullen case, District Attorney John Morganelli of Northampton County, is such a steadfast advocate of capital punishment that he once won a federal court case that forced the governor of Pennsylvania at the time, Robert P. Casey, to sign death warrants.

At this early stage of the inquiry, all the investigators say they are too busy piecing together the evidence to decide whether to seek capital

punishment.

So far Mr. Cullen has been charged only in Somerset County, N.J., which has accused him in two deaths, and on Wednesday prosecutors from the two states met for the first time at the office of County Prosecutor Wayne J. Forrest to exchange information on the case.

Nonetheless, John Hagerty, a spokesman for New Jersey's attorney general, said that one of the topics raised was the possibility of seeking the death penalty. Neither Mr. Hagerty nor the participants at the meeting would characterize those discussions, but as the case moves forward, and as Mr. Cullen perhaps faces additional murder charges in other jurisdictions, the issue is likely to become the subject of intense negotiations among the teams of prosecutors.

Mr. Morganelli, who has characterized Mr. Cullen as a suspect in the death of at least two patients in Easton Hospital, said it was premature to comment on the possibility of seeking a death sentence. But Mr. Morganelli, who is an all-but-formally-declared candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, was not hesitant to proclaim his philosophical support for capital punishment.

"I think that it's necessary to have the death penalty, and I think we should enforce it," he said on Wednesday. "I'm frustrated that we have 200 people on Pennsylvania's death row today, many of whom have admitted killing people, and they're still around."

The New Jersey attorney general, Peter C. Harvey, whose office is overseeing the extensive investigation, has directed New Jersey prosecutors to focus on first gathering the facts before deciding whether to accept Mr. Cullen's offer of cooperation.

"We've got to see what we can prove without his cooperation first," Mr. Harvey said. "Once we know that, and can evaluate the truthfulness of the statements he's made so far and know his state of mind both then and now, then we can talk."

Mr. Harvey and other prosecutors involved in the investigation say the sheer volume of cases means that it will take months to slog through the paper trail of Mr. Cullen's career.

Once they complete their independent assessment, the authorities also have to weigh legal and political factors involved in a death sentence. If the evidence corroborates his claims to have intentionally killed dozens of patients, law enforcement officials could face a surge of public pressure to seek the death penalty-especially in a year when one of the prosecutors involved is running for attorney general.

In the weeks since Mr. Cullen first made his startling admissions, investigators have unearthed evidence that raises questions about his

candor.

Mr. Cullen denied killing any patients when he worked at Easton Hospital, but the authorities say they suspect him in at least two patient deaths there. If prosecutors determine that Mr. Cullen was untruthful in his statements, it could undermine the value of his

cooperation.

Mr. Cullen's lawyer, Johnnie Mask, has not returned repeated calls requesting comment on the matter.

But death penalty opponents say that Mr. Cullen's cooperation can be valuable beyond simply saving investigators time and money. Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that by helping the authorities determine precisely how, and how many, he killed, Mr. Cullen could provide the victims' families with a sense of closure and help medical authorities prevent similar incidents in the

future.

"I think the medical system let this go on so long, that we need to do everything we can to make sure this never happens again," Mr. Dieter

said.

"If Charles Cullen can help the medical system learn from this, then I think the public does recognize that there are some values that trump the death penalty."

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