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Canada

Victims’ families to speak today at Wettlaufer public inquiry

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is serving a life sentence after confessing to killing eight patients with insulin overdoses and attempting to kill four others at long-term care facilities and private homes in Ontario for over about a decade.

The closing submissions will provide insight into the impact the crimes had on the victims’ families, highlight the failings that allowed it to occur and include recommendations to prevent similar crimes from happening.

The public inquiry, which began in June, has examined the circumstances that allowed the nurse to kill elderly patients in her care and was announced after Wettlaufer was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The inquiry has heard that complaints about Wettlaufer began at the start of her career in 1995, and continued until she admitted in 2016 to killing multiple patients.

The former nurse ultimately pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault in a string of incidents that started in 2007.

On the weekend, the daughter of one of Wettlaufer’s murder victims filed a $12.5-million lawsuit against two nursing homes and a number of other health-care organizations.

Susan Horvath’s father — 75-year old Arpad Horvath — was killed in 2014 at Meadow Park Long Term Care in London, Ont.

The victims’ families have made several recommendations that will be read out at the inquiry. This includes that long-term care facilities conduct more substantive reference checks, that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care overhaul how it conducts inspections, and that the ministry identifies oversight mechanisms to ensure that insulin is not used to harm patients.

“The victims’ and their loved ones who were granted participation rights are deeply concerned that those who were involved in providing and regulating for each of the victims’ care collectively failed them,” said the collective statement in the closing submission.

Wettlaufer killed seven residents of Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., shortly after she started working there in June 2007, but her crimes went undetected and Wettlaufer’s former supervisor didn’t suspect she was harming people.

The nurse was disciplined several times by her employers at the facility, who ultimately fired her in 2014 due to multiple medication errors.

Caressant Care’s closing statements will reiterate that the facility never suspected Wettlaufer’s crimes despite her mediocre work performance. The submission also states that the facility believes there were no factors at the facility or any systemic issues that “facilitated or concealed” the murders.

“Given what we know from (Wettlaufer’s) confession about her motives … it is submitted that the crimes that she committed at (Caressant Care in Woodstock) could have been committed in any Ontario’s long-term care homes over the same period,” said the facility’s closing remarks.

Wettlaufer told police in 2016 that she killed her patients for various reasons, sometimes being triggered at work by an unruly patient or at other times being motivated by an internal “red surge,” but there was never a lengthy period of planning.

The judge, police and Crown attorney in Wettlaufer’s case all said she wouldn’t have been caught without her confession.

The inquiry will also hear closing statements from the other long-term care facilities where Wettlaufer worked, the coroner’s office, the Ontario Nurses’ Association, the College of Nurses of Ontario and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

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