60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Digoxin & The Good Nurse Review

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60 Minutes: Serial Killer Interview

In 45 years of stories, 60 Minutes has never interviewed a serial killer, until now. Charles Cullen is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. The former critical care nurse has confessed to 40 murders, but some think he was responsible for many more deaths. One writer has even profiled this unbelievable story in a book, The Good Nurse. Can you imagine losing a family member due to a medical professional’s malice?

60 Minutes: Angel of Death Serial Killer

Cullen’s murders occurred over 16 years at seven hospitals, and though many suspected he was up to something, few red flags were raised. The so-called Angel of Death is not a mercy killer, according to Steve Kroft, who interviewed the man in prison.

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In court, victims’ families spoke to to Charles Cullen in court, even though he refused to make eye contact with them in a New Jersey courtroom seven years ago. Since going into protective custody at the New Jersey State Prison, he has maintained his silence.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Murders

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Digoxin & The Good Nurse Review

In a 60 Minutes first, Steve Kroft talked with serial killer Charles Cullen, the subject of a book called The Good Nurse, about killing hospital patients.

Charles Cullen agreed to an interview with 60 Minutes, and pled guilty to as many as 40 murders. He said for a long time he did not think of himself as a murderer or a serial killer, but eventually he admitted he fits the definition.

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Cullen’s victims were ages 21 to 91, and all were patients at hospitals where he worked. He injected deadly doses of drugs into patients, some of whom were not ill. He began killing in a Livingston, New Jersey hospital.

60 Minutes: The Good Nurse Review

John Yengo, a judge, was Cullen’s first victim. But even he admits he is not sure how many others could have been victims, because he also tainted the hospital’s IV supply with insulin.

New York writer Charles Graebar has extensively researched Cullen for a book, The Good Nurse. Many patients at the hospital got insulin shock, and the hospital suspected Cullen was tainting the bags, but they had no proof. Cullen eventually took another job elsewhere, and the overdoses stopped happening.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Digoxin

Even Cullen admits that he should have had his license revoked. Instead, he moved on to other hospitals, where employers did not pass along their suspicions about the nurse’s behavior. He was investigated in 1993 for one murder.

The injectible medication Digoxin was his weapon of choice, and he explained that it can sow your heart rate, or even cause heart block and irregular heartbeat, leading to death in large doses. Cullen explained that he learned to fool automated medication dispensers by reporting that he was taking out different drugs that shared a drawer with Digoxin.

60 Minutes: Why Did Charles Cullen Kill?

How did he choose which patients would be his victims? He did not have much of an explanation to offer. But he said that he thought it would keep people from suffering. “In a sense, I thought I was helping,” he said.

But research proves that many of his patients were recovering or well when he administered their fatal doses. The surviving family members are and were outraged. One family member said he looked them in the eye and lied to them about their son’s health.

Cullen did not offer much of an explanation or defense about his actions. “My goal here isn’t to justify what I did. There is no justification,” he said. He’s got that right.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Personal Life

Charles Cullen, the youngest of eight children from a poor New Jersey family, lost his mother at age 17. After a stint in the Navy, and two suicide attempts, he got into the field of nursing, getting married and starting a family.

Bankruptcy, divorce, custody fights, and mental health problems followed. Eventually, Cullen confessed to what he had been up to. He explained that he had made multiple suicide attempts throughout his life.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Victim?

Graeber interviewed Cullen many times for his book, and said that all of his behavior stems from the killer’s self-perception as a victim. “Anything justifies his victimhood,” the author said of his subject.

He went on to say that Cullen would exert power to save or kill patients to act out in response to turmoil in his own life. Kroft said that Cullen made about 20 suicide attempts over the years.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen Psychiatric History

Supposedly, nursing shortages and liability concerns kept hospitals from passing on concerns about Cullen, who was offered positions and critical care nursing shifts even while he was a patient in a psychiatric ward.

By the time Charlie Cullen was hired by St. Luke’s University Hospital in Pennsylvania, no one knew about his checkered past, least of all the state nursing board. At that point, he already had claimed 11 victims, and would take at least five more lives during his time at St. Luke’s.

Though St. Luke’s caught him stealing drugs, their only intervention was to get a lawyer involved. He was offered a chance to resign with “neutral references,” but even Cullen said he should not have been allowed to continue practicing as a nurse.

60 Minutes: Charles Cullen References

Cullen said he thinks hospitals were worried about litigation and investigations into potential victims, so they wanted to avoid the additional exposure.

Finally, a nurse anonymously reported concerns and a state investigation began at St. Luke’s. All the while, Cullen had moved on to a New Jersey hospital, where he killed another 13 victims.

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