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From: InfoSec News (alertsinfosecnews.org)
Date: Wed May 01 2013 - 01:28:29 CDT
BY CHARLES GRAEBER
Nurses deal with drugs every day. Most do so professionally, safely,
reliably. A very few abuse them, getting high or selling them for a
profit, mostly opiates. And a tiny minority — a handful in the history
of nursing — turn medicines into a murder weapon.
One such nurse was Charles Cullen, who is the subject of my book The
Good Nurse. A former Navy electronics technician who used his technical
acumen to enable his crimes and avoid detection, Cullen got away with
medical murder in at least nine hospitals over the course of his 16-year
career. (He was finally arrested in 2003; he’s currently serving life in
Trenton Maximum Security Prison.) He eventually admitted to 40 murders,
but experts familiar with the case believe that number is low, perhaps
by several hundred. If they’re right, Charles Cullen is the most
prolific serial killer in American history.
For a murderer, a hospital is a convenient place to work. Deaths occur
there every day; people are sick and succumb to illness. It was
difficult to sort out Cullen’s crimes from the usual stream of codes and
crashes. But Cullen was especially good at what he did. And he was an
expert at getting away with it. In essence, Cullen hacked the hospital
systems that regulate medications.
Part of his secret lay in the drugs he used. Many hospitals strictly
regulate drugs like ketamine, OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Darvocet,
Demerol, morphine — anything that can get you high and everything
addictive. But Charles Cullen avoided these drugs, and committed murder
using medications normally employed to save lives. Drugs like digoxin,
which is commonly used to help regulate heart rhythm, became a weapon in
Cullen’s hands when employed in large enough doses and injected into a
port on their IVs. It was especially lethal to patients with a history
of heart problems. Insulin was another drug Cullen frequently used,
sending patients into spiraling diabetic comas and generally stressing
their already fragile systems.
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