The True Story Behind Netflix’s The Good Nurse


Charles Cullen is a former registered nurse who labored in hospitals throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the place he assisted with procedures, tended to sufferers, and have become one in all America’s most prolific serial killers.

Over his 16-year profession, Cullen is confirmed to have murdered 29 sufferers, and is believed to have killed as many as 400 individuals in complete by way of a number of means, together with covertly dosing them with medicine like insulin and digoxin. The story of how his crimes had been lastly uncovered is explored within the new Netflix movie The Good Nurse, starring Eddie Redmayne as Cullen and Jessica Chastain as a fellow nurse Amy Loughren, and based mostly on the e book of the identical title by Charles Graeber. Right here’s what to find out about Cullen, the story uncovered in The Good Nurse, and the medical true crime style.

How Charles Cullen’s crimes had been found

In a departure from many different titles within the true crime style, The Good Nurse doesn’t focus its sympathies, and even a lot of its consideration, on the killer. As an alternative, the movie follows Loughren, a night-shift nurse and single mom of two who’s struggling to handle a severe coronary heart situation within the face of unrelenting overwork, when Cullen is employed to work alongside her. Relieved, she leans on and confides in him, and the 2 change into associates—mirroring their real-life shut relationship.

Quickly after Cullen is employed, steady sufferers start passing away below suspicious circumstances. A lady recovering from an allergic response who’s simply discovered real love at 77 dies all of the sudden, earlier than her husband could make it to her facet. A younger mom who’s survived an accident additionally dies unexpectedly—as do many extra sufferers who had been seemingly on the street to restoration. Neither affected person is predicated straight on any of Cullen’s identified victims, marking one other departure from conventional depictions in true crime dramatizations, which regularly painting actual victims and survivors. Author Krysty Wilson-Cairns informed the Los Angeles Instances this selection was made to keep away from probably retraumatizing these Cullen victimized.

Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen in ‘The Good Nurse’

JoJo Whilden—Netflix

Flash ahead seven weeks, and the hospital has referred to as within the native police. Initially, police appear to really feel they’ve higher issues to do than examine the demise, seemingly as a result of the sufferer was aged and already sick sufficient to be hospitalized. However after assembly with the hospital’s representatives, it turns into clear that she died below unsure circumstances—and that the hospital directors know greater than they’re letting on, or are prepared to share with authorities. It’s Loughren who first mentions to the police, throughout a routine interview as a part of their investigation, that the deceased lady’s blood checks recommend an insulin overdose.

Because the police proceed to research and the hospital continues to obfuscate, Loughren involves suspect her new pal of being behind the a number of suspicious deaths. She works with police to uncover proof that Cullen is accountable, and following a tense meet-up at a diner throughout which Loughren wears a wire (based mostly on an actual life second they shared), Cullen is lastly arrested.

When requested about his motivations for murdering a whole lot of individuals whose care was entrusted to him, Cullen provides a easy reply within the movie: “They didn’t cease me.” In actual life, Cullen claimed he dedicated his murders out of a way of mercy. Nonetheless, lots of his victims had promising outlooks earlier than he got here into the image—and all of them had the appropriate, no matter sickness or incapacity, to not have Cullen resolve based mostly on ableist and ageist standards whether or not they deserved to reside or die.

Cullen pleaded responsible to 22 counts of homicide in New Jersey and 7 in Pennsylvania, in addition to six counts of tried homicide. He’s presently serving 11 consecutive life sentences, and gained’t be eligible for parole till lengthy after his personal demise.

Learn Extra: Evaluate: The Good Nurse Is a True-Crime Story Dressed Up with a Stylish Sheen

The Good Nurse and the importance of medical true crime

True crime is difficult. For victims and survivors of violent crimes who’re prepared to revisit their tales by way of films or podcasts can present catharsis and an outlet for nervousness. However it will probably additionally result in exploitation of survivors, victims, and their households (as within the case of Netflix’s Dahmer sequence), harmful platforming of perpetrators’ dully bigoted beliefs, and a perpetuation of bias that has been used to uplift racist and carceral laws. Whereas true crime will be vital of the police for his or her failures in investigating or defending survivors, it will probably additionally usually uncritically lionize them, ignoring severe points with police habits. It additionally fabricates a way of hazard that defies the fact of crime statistics, which present that homicide charges have general trended down for many years, and that the commonest victims of homicide aren’t white ladies, as many a real crime podcast might need you suppose, however Black males.

True crime targeted on medical malpractice can tackle a special tenor from different classics of the style, due to its deal with the disastrous shortcomings of the healthcare system. Between excessive prices for medical care, healthcare disparities that disproportionately affect marginalized teams, and the continuing trauma of the pandemic, it’s not a shock that belief within the healthcare system is at a low.

Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren in 'The Good Nurse' (JoJo Whilden—Netflix)

Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren in ‘The Good Nurse’

JoJo Whilden—Netflix

Neither is it shocking that the provision of tales from individuals who suffered mistreatment by the hands of the well being care system is just about inexhaustible, and primed to be spun into medical true crime. The story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a former neurosurgeon whose botched procedures routinely disabled and even killed his sufferers, was compelling sufficient that it was explored not solely in an article, but additionally the Dr. Dying podcast and tv sequence. Tales like Duntsch’s and Cullen’s strike a nerve. Some are drawn to the excessive stakes, or the life-or-death conditions. Some really feel validated to see their very own experiences of ableism and neglect mirrored again to them. For a lot of, medical true crime is compelling as a result of it captures the very actual sense of tension and outrage individuals have in regards to the brokenness and inaction of the system.

Each within the movie and in actual life, Cullen’s victims had been at risk the second they entered the hospital. The Good Nurse persistently reveals how overburdened the hospital is: in a dialog together with her supervisor, Loughren learns they wanted assist, and Cullen was there to supply it. The truth that he was capable of transfer from one facility to a different, at all times slipping by way of the cracks simply forward of suspicion, with the very hospitals the place he killed working to cowl his tracks for worry of legal responsibility, demonstrates that the issue goes far past Cullen, Duntsch, or some other single particular person. Even Loughren herself was a sufferer of the system, working shifts that exacerbated the guts situation she was pressured to cover in hopes of surviving lengthy sufficient to qualify for medical health insurance and entry therapy.

Learn extra: The 16 Finest True Crime Books of All Time

The Good Nurse reveals how determined hospitals fail to look too carefully on the individuals they’re hiring, each as a result of they don’t have sufficient time, and since in the event that they did they may uncover causes to say no, and realistically, they merely can’t flip down assist. And in Cullen’s case, this was 17 years earlier than COVID-19 would decimate the already dwindling variety of nurses.

In the identical means sentiments bolstering and bolstered by conventional true crime have contributed to usually regrettable structural and cultural adjustments, these exacerbated by medical true crime may be pivoted from particular person circumstances to the bigger want for systemic change, after which to advocating for a greater well being care system.

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