Case of nursing home deaths should change provincial regulations, criminologist says
Case is "the most egregious that I know of in Canadian history," says Mike Arntfield
A criminology professor at Western University says the case of a nursing home worker accused of killing eight elderly residents should lead to changes in they way nursing homes are monitored in Ontario.
Mike Arntfield, a former police officer who also hosts the television show To Catch a Killer, spoke Tuesday with CBC News, not long after Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, 49, was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder.
Wettlaufer was charged in connection with the deaths of residents in the southwestern Ontario nursing homes where she worked.
Seven of the victims died after they received a fatal dose of medication while in the nursing home, police said. The victims are alleged to have been killed between 2007 and 2014.
Arntfield says there are currently no mechanisms in place to track and report nursing home deaths in the province.
"I'm willing to bet in many of the cases involving these eight victims, and maybe more, that autopsies weren't even performed, which is why healthcare killers tend to make a very specific type of offender with a very specific M.O.," Arntfield said.
Arntfield, speaking with CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond via Skype, said he hopes the province will change how it deals with nursing home deaths in response to cases like this.
"Fortunately, they're rare and maybe this case, which is the most egregious that I know of in Canadian history, will change that."
Arntfield says criminologists still don't fully understand why these types of offenders commit their crimes.
He says some experts have suggested the accused have what's called Mother Teresa Syndrome, a personality disorder which causes people to develop an illusion that they are playing God and acting mercifully.
"They initially begin these crimes by, in some cases, genuinely believing they're relieving suffering of particular patients who are in palliative care or in terminal stages of some disease," Arntfield said. "Then we see, like many serialized offences, it begins to take on a more compulsive dimension and is really more about ego satisfaction."
Police launched an investigation into several deaths in London, Woodstock and in Oxford and Brant counties on Oct. 14.
The eight murder charges are the most brought against any individual in Ontario since eight men were killed in the Bandidos killings in 2006, according to Woodstock police chief William Renton.