To heal or kill…

As described in M. C. Kearl’s journal, How We Die: The Social Stratification of Death, whether it is due to understaffing or the desire to save money, nursing homes often hire caretakers or nurses that are incompetent and end up socially isolating, abusing, or abandoning their patients. This also occurs in hospitals; however, in the case of nurse Beverley Allitt, it proved to be even more detrimental to the patients with which she came in contact.

In the early 1990’s, Allitt who had repeatedly failed her nursing exams was hired for a temporary position in the Children’s ward of an understaffed hospital in Nottingham. Many children came into the hospital, with their parents by their side hoping for the best. They brought their children there to be healed and viewed Beverly Allitt as an “angel of mercy,” a nurse that was always by the child’s side and the comforting shoulder for the parents.

However, under her care, many kids that were admitted with a minor condition, such as a cold, simply to be monitored, would have a respiratory crisis, be revived, then have another respiratory crisis and turn pale. Red blotches would appear, and he or she would completely stop breathing. Cardiac arrest followed, and doctors would try repeatedly to get the patient to start breathing again. The children were placed on life-support machines, but had suffered from severe brain damage. After being taken off life support, the children, without history ofheart disease, would die from heart failure. Others had induced paralysis, cerebral palsy, and damage to their hearing or site before passing away.¬†She did not create these tragedies in order to gain money or fame; after the patients died, Allitt would go home and continue about her day/week as if nothing had happened. Within the first four months, she attacked nine children and killed four. She was the “angel of death.” Overall, after she was caught, detectives uncovered 25 suspicious episodes with 13 victims, ranging from the age of 5 months to 11 years old.

The symbols of health, healing and survival: the hospital, the white coat, the smiling nurses, became signs of death, dying, suffering, and loss. The place that people come in order to prevent death and prolong life was the cause of many innocent people’s deaths.

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Xavier Charde

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