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Saturday, April 29, 2006

A modern day tragedy

Charles Cullen, a despicable creature, is in prison, and will never be free again. He was convicted of killing many patients while working as a nurse in various facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He admitted to killing as many as 40 people over 16 years.

Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented. Suspicious deaths were tied to Cullen, who would leave one nursing job and find another without difficulty, thanks to the tight job market. Yet employers were not willing to share their suspicions, for fear of being sued.

From Wikipedia:
Cullen was largely able to move from facility to facility undetected, experts say, because of lax reporting requirements and inadequate legal protection for employers. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like most states, required health care facilities to report suspicious deaths only in the most egregious cases, and penalties for failing to report incidents were minor. Many states did not give investigators the legal authority to discover where a worker had previously been employed. Employers feared to investigate incidents or give a bad employment reference for fear that such actions might trigger a lawsuit.

Now, I place the responsibility for Cullen's actions solely with him. He may have had a rough childhood and depression, but he knew right from wrong, and chose to do wrong. There is no excuse for murder. Most people on my side of the political spectrum would agree with this assessment.

But then, there is the other side, and many of them don't see things the same way. They place the blame for heinous criminal acts not on the criminals themselves, but on racism, or childhood abuse, or, famously, even radio talk show hosts.

I've searched the news, but strangely, I haven't found these same people laying the blame for this mass murderer at the feet of trial lawyers and the fearful, litigious society they've created.

Charles Cullen was free to kill again and again because trial lawyers will sue, no matter how reasonable the employer's action. Employers are left afraid of stating honest, unbiased fact. "This former employee has been investigated over suspicious deaths. The outcome of this investigation [is XXX]/[has not been determined]." True, I would hate to have something like that over my head, were I interviewing, but that is fact, not a malicious aspersion on one's character.

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