Systemic Challenges Allowed Nurse to Get Away with Murder: Wettlaufer Report

Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Nursing Home Negligence

Justice Eileen Gillese released an eye-opening report this week, the culmination of a public inquiry into Ontario’s long-term care system. The over 1400-page report was prompted by the criminal actions of nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, deemed the worst healthcare killer in Canadian history.

Serial killer in nursing home

Wettlaufer worked as a nurse for many years at various nursing homes in the province and as a home-care nurse too. Gillese was asked to examine the circumstances that allowed Wettlaufer to use insulin injections to kill eight seniors from 2007 to 2016 (primarily at the Caressant Care nursing home in Woodstock, Ontario) and to offer recommendations on how to avoid the situation from occurring again.

In 2017 52-year-old Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. She is currently serving eight concurrent life sentences, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Recommendations for prevention

The report blamed the “systemic vulnerabilities” in long-term healthcare, as opposed to the actions of any one individual, for allowing Wettlaufer to commit and get away with her crimes (it is believed the killings wouldn’t have been revealed had Wettlaufer not confessed to them at the end of her career).

Gillese offered 91 recommendations including:

  • Increase funds for training, education and professional development for anyone hired to care for residents in nursing homes.
  • Limit the use of nurses hired from temp agencies.
  • Improve the way medication is stored and tracked.
  • Increase the number of registered nurses and registered practical nurses in long-term care homes.

Read up on HSH’s advice on Nursing Homes here:

Top 5 Things to Consider When Looking for a Nursing Home in Ontario

Top 5 Things to Know When a Loved One is in a Nursing Home in Ontario

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