Due to the popularity of true-crime documentaries, Netflix has launched The Good Nurse, a film that is equally captivating and terrifying. Amy, played by Jessica Chastain, is a nurse who is contacted by the police while they’re looking into the activities of her colleague, Charles Cullen. Authorities believe Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) is responsible for several mysterious fatalities at his workplaces.
L to R: Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren | JoJo Whilden/Netflix
The young nurse at first doesn’t believe the police when they accuse her coworker of wrongdoing, but she eventually accepts the truth. The story is riveting from start to finish.
Many audiences were astonished and appalled to realize that the movie was based on the true story of serial killer Charles Cullen, whose story was just as terrible as the one depicted in the film.
Charles Cullen, the Angel of Death
Cullen was born in New Jersey in 1960. After graduating from Mountainside Hospital Nursing School in 1986, he found a job in the burn unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center. There, a string of unexplained fatalities raised concern among the administration.
During Cullen’s overnight shifts, healthy patients would die from drug overdoses in their IVs. After the incident in St. Barnabas, the mysterious nurse fled for a hospital in Philipsburg, but then more suspicious deaths occurred, and he had to leave again.
Due to staffing shortages, Cullen was able to work at hospitals for a long time without anybody paying careful attention to his file or conducting thorough background checks. Six hospitals fell victim to his deadly escapades between 1993 and 2003.
After further mysterious fatalities occurred during Cullen’s time at Somerset Medical Center, a coworker named Amy Loughren reviewed his work records. She uncovered a mountain of evidence and decided to report her suspicions to the authorities. Loughren collaborated with law enforcement and recorded horrific confessions from her coworker, facilitating his arrest.
According to Oxygen, the media dubbed Cullen the “Angel of Death.” Although he confessed to 29 murders and six attempted murders, authorities believe the serial killer nurse was responsible for hundreds of deaths. At his 2006 trial, Cullen was spared execution but given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Hospitals settled suits by Cullen survivors
I get to share this brave woman’s story with you: Amy Loughren, a nurse who put herself at risk to put an end to dozens of murders. Watch the story of the most prolific serial killer in American History, #TheGoodNurse in theaters now and on @netflixfilm this Wednesday, Oct 26th pic.twitter.com/LaEZiW36Yo
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) October 23, 2022
After four years of litigation, the families of Cullen’s victims settled their wrongful death lawsuits in a private settlement in 2008. To settle the claims brought on behalf of 22 victims, six institutions (Somerset Medical Center, Hunterdon Medical Center, Warren Hospital, Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, and St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa.) agreed to pay an undisclosed sum.
According to NJ News, none of the hospitals admitted any wrongdoing in the case, which included allegations that hospital executives knew Cullen was using stolen medications to murder patients but did nothing to stop him. The Good Nurse’s postscript includes a sobering line: “There have never been criminal proceedings against any of the hospitals.”
Amy Loughren blames the hospitals for failing to stop Cullen
NJ Advance Media interviewed Amy Loughren, the nurse who turned confidential informant and assisted police in their investigation into Cullen. Loughren said her choice to cooperate with law enforcement was her attempt to stop the enabling factors that provided Cullen with the opportunity to kill.
In The Good Nurse, the fact that the hospitals didn’t do anything to stop Cullen is part of a bigger critique of the U.S. healthcare system. Loughren’s shock at having to pay almost $1,000 for a doctor’s appointment and tests shows how broken the system she works in is. Despite a stroke warning, the nurse couldn’t take time off work because she didn’t have health insurance or paid leave.
In real life, if Loughren, a travel nurse, took a week off for surgery, she could have lost her health insurance and job. When medical bills were so high, even with insurance, that just wasn’t an option.
The Good Nurse’s director Tobias Lindholm says he hopes the movie highlights the harmful pitfalls of the American healthcare system. While speaking to NJ Advance Media, Loughren said that she takes comfort in the fact that hospitals are now required to implement safeguards to prevent the kind of carelessness that enabled Cullen’s crimes.
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