Charlie Cullen was a hospital administrator’s dream–a nurse who took any shift and worked harder than anyone else–but to his patients, he was an “Angel of Death” who killed upwards of 300 people.
It’s been awhile since I read a true crime account, but when I heard a radio interview with The Good Nurse author Charles Graeber I knew I had to pick this one up. Charlie Cullen’s story is fascinating because of the institutional protection he received over his career as a nurse and a serial killer. Basically, every hospital that employed him had reason to suspect that he was killing patients, but none of them did anything about it because they were afraid of liability. In this age of insurance-driven healthcare, it’s easy to see how this tragedy was not only possible but inevitable. And Charlie turns out to be a complicated figure, and while he doesn’t necessarily inspire sympathy or pity, his monstrosity is almost surpassed by the callous efficiency of the bureaucratic structures that allowed him to not only survive, but flourish.