Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Healing Arts -- and Murder

"It's devastating. To lose somebody like that. It's sad. You figure he died, and that was it. The next thing you know, you found out [police believe] somebody murdered your father."
Arpad Horvath, Jr., Woodstock, Ontario

"We're living my father's death right now. It's horrific."
"We don't want him to become the poster boy of this tragedy but we would like the story out there: [He was] a wonderful man, a World War II vet, just the best father in the world."
Daniel Silcox, son of James Silcox, 84

"My own voice called to me in the darkness. Others hands lifted me when I chose the light. One year ago today I woke up not dead. 365 days clean and sober."
"Heart beats then sprays/as this next victim pays/her deft dagger's bill."
Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, registered nurse

"It's shocking and sad to know that this happened to so many people, and it just seems with my experience there [Caressant Care Woodstock; long-term care residence], that people working there should have paid close attention."
Sabrina Sabic, 17, former student nurse's aid
Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, of Woodstock, Ontario, is shown in this still image taken from video provided by Citynews Toronto in Woodstock on Tuesday Oct. 25, 2016. Police have charged a nurse in southwestern Ontario with murder alleging she killed eight nursing home residents by administering a drug. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout-Citynews Toronto)
Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, of Woodstock, Ontario, is shown in this still image taken from video provided by Citynews Toronto in Woodstock on Tuesday Oct. 25, 2016. Police have charged a nurse in southwestern Ontario with murder alleging she killed eight nursing home residents by administering a drug. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout-Citynews Toronto)
Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes Ltd., operates fifteen such long-[term care facilities mostly in small towns. At their facility located in Woodstock, Ontario, over a period seven years, seven elderly people in their care died. They were between the ages of 74 to 96. Another death took place elsewhere, a resident of Meadow Park long-term care residence, in London, Ontario. All of the eight deaths have now been linked to one woman, Elizabeth "Bethe" Tracey Mae Wettlaufer.

Before her resignation from the College of Nurses of Ontario on September 30, she was entitled to practise as a registered nurse. She worked at a number of extended-care facilities for elderly people, including one that specialized in the care of people with developmental disabilities. The town of 37,000 people has been stunned by the revelation of these murders which had been formally registered, when they had occurred between the years 2007 and 2014, as natural deaths related to age and health conditions.

"The victims were administered a drug, but I'm not in a position at this time to comment on specifics of the drug", advised Det.-Supt. William Merrylee of the London Police Services. Police did not state with any conviction other than to mention that the woman now in detention worked at other long-term care facilities, that the possibility is there that more victims of her nursing ministrations leading to death might yet be uncovered.

The woman whom her neighbours described as "happy-go-lucky" in personality, had evidently recently emerged from the second of two rehabilitation facilities' sessions. She was divorced, wrote poetry, had two cats and a beloved Jack Russell terrier, and was pleasant to her neighbours: "It's hard to believe, really, really hard to believe" said one woman who lives downstairs from former nurse Wettlaufer's fifth-floor apartment. It has been revealed that the woman was made subject to a peace bond earlier in the month.

She was given ten conditions, one of which was that she live with her parents in Woodstock, and she was not to act as a caregiver to anyone. Banned from possessing insulin or any other kind of medication save for her own use, she was barred also by the court order from visiting any long-term care facility, nursing or retirement home or hospital unless she was herself in need of medical treatment. On Tuesday she was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder.

Toronto police had been contacted by Officials from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health with the information that nurse Wettlaufer had informed hospital staff of actions on her part that caused them "concern". When Toronto police were in possession of the hospital's concerns, an interview with Wettlaufer produced the information that the crimes that were being alleged had occurred outside their jurisdiction. They then contacted the Ontario Provincial Police, and police in Woodstock and London, Ontario, where the crimes were said to have occurred.

The town of Woodstock is reeling in shock, magnified by that felt by the families of the elderly patients whom this woman is now being investigated for murdering. Once the eight murders have been verified, and perhaps others committed elsewhere have turned up, it will be seen what kind of a serial murder this woman was. That she had mental health problems and substance addiction problems and sought help for them may turn out to be a legally feasible defence for her once the case goes to trial.

Ironically, though she planned, committed to and carried out the murders of helpless seniors in her care over a period of years, as a defendant on trial for these crimes much will be made of the fact in law that mental health and addictions are considered to be disabilities. People with 'disabilities' are given fairly lenient sentences in reflection of their conditions considered responsible for the actions they commit; in short excusing them for murder on the basis of illness.

"Most of it [such serial murders] involves IV medication, because you don't even need to poke a needle into the skin of the patient. You can just put a few little drops of additional medication into the IV line, and it's almost just too easy", explained Beatrice Yorker, California State University nursing professor

In a 2014 study of 15 nurses who committed murders in hospitals, research revealed some similarities between them as motivating factors. A history of depression or similar psychological problems, a high incidence of death on the shifts linked to the killers, resulting in colleagues feeling uncomfortable near them; and having drugs in their lockers or in their homes.

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania 29 patients were murdered by nurse Charles Cullen. Following his trial where he was found guilty, he admitted that his murder toll should be increased by at least ten. He was, in fact, suspected of having been the direct cause of another 300 deaths.

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