Last week we provided an in-depth overview of the Public Inquiry that has begun into the actions of Elizabeth Wettlaufer who pled guilty to the murder of eight residents of long-term care facilities across Southwestern Ontario.

As the Inquiry continues into week two, more information about Wettlaufer’s past has come to light. CBC News reports that early in her career, the former nurse may have been on a “do not hire” list used by one of the country’s largest long-term care operators. Other news outlets are reporting that Wettlaufer was called “the angel of death” by a colleague.

Do Not Hire

Heidi-Wilmot Smith, the owner of Lifeguard Carehome (an agency that provides temporary nurses for long-term care homes) testified in the Inquiry. Wilmot-Smith told the Inquiry that through the agency, she had placed Wettlaufer at Telfer Place in Paris, Ontario (where Wettlaufer later tried to kill a patient).

After Wettlaufer confessed to her actions, and after the police began their investigation, Wilmot-Smith received a phone call from a vice-president at Revera, a large owner of nursing homes Canada-wide, who told her that “Bethe” had worked for Revera under the last name Parker, and that “Bethe Parker” was on Revera’s “do not hire” list.

The vice-president noted that when Wettlaufer again started working for Revera, the company didn’t realize who she was because the second time she was practicing under the last name “Wettlaufer”.

Angel of Death

Karen Routledge, a registered nurse, worked with Wettlaufer at the Caressant Care nursing home in Woodstock, Ontario (the facility where Wettlaufer murdered seven of her eight victims between 2007 and 2014, when she was fired).

She testified that she heard another staff member use the term “angel of death” when talking about Wettlaufer, in a conversation where it was also suggested that Wettlaufer had spent extra time with palliative residents and that she had been overheard telling a palliative patient that is was “okay to die”.

Routledge told the Inquiry that she was uncomfortable with Wettlaufer’s comment, and that she did not think it was a “nurse’s place” to make such a remark.

Routledge had worked with Wettlaufer at Caressant Care for the entire duration Wettlaufer was employed there, and was also the union representative. Due to her union role, Routledge attended a number of disciplinary meetings addressing Wettlaufer’s performance over the years. Wettlaufer was reprimanded for several reasons, including lateness, absenteeism, incompetence, and medication errors. Wettlaufer’s record contained 44 instances where the nurse had committed medication errors, or had been disciplined or warned about incompetence.  Routledge testified that Wettlaufer was “very contrite and apologetic” at the meetings, often exhibiting remorse or shedding tears.

Wettlaufer was eventually terminated in 2014, long before she confessed to the killings in 2017. The reason for the termination was a medical error that had put a patient’s life at risk.

Routledge told the Inquiry that there was nothing in Wettlaufer’s demeanour that suggested that she was a serial killer, noting:

For the most part she came in smiling and quite bubbly…She portrayed herself as a very caring nurse for the residents. She would take on some very difficult (residents), even people who didn’t have family and bring them special treats from home. I had no idea.

We will continue to monitor the Inquiry as it proceeds and will provide further information as it becomes available.

At Wise Health Law, we provide exceptional guidance on health law matters to public hospitals, long-term care homes, and other health-care providers across the province. We monitor trends and developments in the health sector so that we can provide consistently forward-thinking legal advice and risk management guidance to all of our clients. We have offices in both Toronto and Oakville, Ontario, and are easily accessible. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.


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