Coroner who declined probe of killer nurse deems care homes safe
A coroner who failed to find anything suspicious about the deaths of two people killed by an Ontario nurse told a public inquiry Wednesday that he never considered the possibility that a caregiver in a long-term care facility would deliberately harm their patients.
Dr. William George, who declined to investigate the death of one of Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s victims and deemed the passing of another accidental, said he regarded long-term care homes as safe places where purposeful attacks would not occur.
The longtime coroner for the Woodstock, Ont., area had praise for the Caressant Care home where Wettlaufer worked for years and deliberately injected numerous patients with insulin. The former nurse ultimately pleaded guilty to eight counts of firstdegree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault in a string of incidents that started in 2007.
In his testimony at the public inquiry examining Wettlaufer’s actions, George admitted that he failed to complete mandatory forms or retain notes required by the office regulating the province’s death investigations.
He also said he viewed most deaths at long-term care homes as reasonably foreseeable. Underlying it all, he said, was the belief that patients living in long-term care homes could not come to any deliberate harm.
“I’ve had patients there on a regular basis and never had any concerns,” George said of people living at Caressant.
Upon questioning from lawyers at the inquiry, George conceded that this view was a general belief that applied to all long-term care homes.
George, a family practitioner who has worked as a coroner since 2004, came to the inquiry’s attention weeks ago when nursing home staff testified about the death of Maureen Pickering.
The 79-year-old experienced a sudden, abrupt drop in her blood sugar levels days before her death in 2014. Doctors flagged the drop as suspicious and urged the family to call the coroner if Pickering were to die.