Charles Cullen Speaks to Steve Kroft

New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In 2004, Charles Cullen pled guilty to murder.  He was accused of killing at least 40 people in 7 hospitals over a period of 16 years, across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Most experts believe the actual number could be as high as a couple of hundred.

Cullen worked as a male nurse.  His access to drugs allowed him to end the lives of his patients. He said he couldn’t stand to see “pain and suffering”. He didn’t discriminate between old or young, the seriously ill or injured and those in hospital care for minor injuries.  His drug of choice was digoxin, commonly used to regulate heart rhythm, but in larger doses ceases the heartbeat entirely.

He was finally arrested in 2003.  His pattern had been to order drugs, then cancel the order.  The drawer would pop open anyway, and he simply took what he wanted.  Sometimes, when one of his patients was in cardiac arrest, he was the first to call out “code blue”.

As I watched Steve Croft’s interview, I continued to ask the same question; Why were there no reports to the authorities years prior to his arrest?  Hospital officials all seemed to ‘skate’ around the truth, although most of them suspected something, and their suspicions often centered around Cullen.  I came to the conclusion, it’s always the same answer, it’s all about the money.  Lawsuits.

My grandparents, who were born in the late 1800’s, used to have a saying:  “The hospital is a place where you go to die.”  An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a study of 37 million patient records.

A nurse was quoted in a recent article I read saying that she wouldn’t be a patient at the hospital in which she worked.

This is no attack on the majority of those who work in health care.  As it is with every profession, there are always problems.  I am saying our health care system as an overall disgrace.

From the cost of services to the lack of sufficient personnel, there are problems.  Nurses have a minimum of 6 patients to attend to, and in some cases, such as geriatric care numbers as high as 30 have been reported.

My best friend had a life threatening situation the end of last year, and was in the hospital for a week.  In the beginning, he was in a great deal of pain.  I was with him when he rang his buzzer to have the nurse come to his room.  It was about 15 minutes later when she finally arrived, and about 15 minutes more for her to return with the medication.

Two very close friends of mine died while in the hospital.  In both cases they were given medication that resulted in their deaths.  My mother-in-law and stepfather both died a couple of years ago.  The communication between doctors, nurses, and the support staff was horrible.

We can do better.  Those in our country who have a great fear of the term “socialized medicine” have been brainwashed.  My cousin, who lives in Ontario, Canada now, loves their system of healthcare.  Preventative care is the key, something most Americans cannot afford.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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