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Richard Angelo often referred to as the angel of death was regarded as a dedicated nurse and a guy next door. Many people who knew that man were shocked to find out that he proved to be a serial killer who murdered several people who trusted him.
Richard Angelo was sentenced to 50-year imprisonment (Associated Press, 1990). During the trial he was calm and confident. He revealed his motives stating that he wanted to be seen as a hero by his colleagues.
He initiated crises in patients and after that he was the first one to be there to save lives. This motive has been labeled “a professional version of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy” (Yorker et al., 2006, p. 1367).
Admittedly, Angelo did not think of any diagnoses but he had to face a serious ethical dilemma. Of course, it is necessary to consider certain biographical facts to understand the major ethical dilemma the killer faced.
Richard Angelo was born in Farmingdale on August 29, 1962. His parents were Joseph Angelo, a high school guidance counselor, and Alice Angelo, an economics teacher. Richard Angelo graduated from St. John the Baptist Catholic School in 1980 (Schmitt, 1987).
He entered the State University at Stony Brook in 1980 where he took several science courses. In 1982, Richard Angelo took the nursing program at the State University at Farmingdale “where he made the dean’s honor list all four semesters” (Schmitt, 1987, n.p.).
The then chairwoman of the nursing department of the university stated, “He was a B student who graduated in good standing” (as cited in Schmitt, 1987, n.p.).
As far as his college life was concerned, he did not stand out and he kept to himself. Notably, people who lived in the neighborhood also claimed that the Angelos were a nice family, but they kept to themselves.
In 1985, he graduated and became a registered nurse at the Nassau County Medical Center (East Meadow). In 1986, he started working at Brunswick Hospital (Amityville, LI). In the beginning of the 1987, he started working as a nurse at Good Samaritan.
Notably, Angelo worked night shifts and therefore neighbors did not see much of him, but he was like any other guy next door.
His colleagues stated they were shocked to learn that Angelo was accused of killing four people. Angelo’s colleagues used to think he was a dedicated worker and a nice person.
It proved to be difficult to define the number of Angelo’s victims due to the fact he used anectine which disappears within 24 hours.
However, Angelo was convicted of murdering 4 people “by injecting them with a paralyzing drug so he could revive them and appear a hero” (Associated Press, 1990, p. 3A).
The convicted claimed he made the injections to cause crises to be able to revive patients and become a hero in front of his colleagues. Relatives of the victims asked for the death penalty as they claimed:
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These were no folks who took an ill-advised stroll in Central Park after dark… These were sick, vulnerable people who had entrusted their care to this defendant. (as cited in Associated Press, 1990, p. 3A)
The Judge told Angelo that he had had no right to pretend being God and decide when a person could die or live (Associated Press, 1990). As has been mentioned above, Richard Angelo was sentenced to 50-year imprisonment.
It is necessary to note that Richard Angelo faced a number of ethical dilemmas and failed to make the right choices. On one hand, he wanted his colleagues to respect him and appreciate his work.
This cannot be regarded as a very bad desire. On the contrary, it could encourage Angelo to work harder and become an experienced nurse.
However, Angelo found another way to achieve his goals. He thought he could show his skills while reviving patients. He must have been sure that he was able to revive a person otherwise he would not gain his colleagues’ respect.
Therefore, he did “usurp God’s function” (as cited in Associated Press, 1990, p. 3A). Angelo thought he had the right to decide who can handle the crisis. He thought he had the right to seem better at the expense of people’s suffering and even deaths.
Thus, the major dilemma he faced was as follows: Could he cause the crisis and make patients suffer to be able to save them and seem a hero?
On one hand, Angelo was sure he could save the patients. Thus, he did not think the risk was very high. He was sure he was able to handle any serious situation.
During the trial, Angelo said he was like firefighters who set fires to become heroes (Sattinger, 2007). Sattinger (2007) notes that such people (like Angelo or the firefighters) do not want people to die but are prepared for such outcomes.
Richard Angelo could think that those elderly people were to die soon anyway, so he did not do anything wrong.
According to Yorker et al. (2006) healthcare serial killers often choose vulnerable people, e.g. aging and elderly people, very young people, etc.
Richard Angelo also chose aging people to achieve his aims. Notably, many health care professionals face the ethical dilemma whether to provide treatment to terminally ill people or let them pass away peacefully.
On the contrary, Angelo has another dilemma. He made injections to patients to cause crises. He must have believed that patients already had had heart attacks and other health problems, therefore, they would have those problems again.
Thus, Angelo could think in the following way: those patients could experience these problems anyway, so there was no harm if he speeded this process up.
It is important to add that Angelo never said he wanted to end some people’s sufferings. He only wanted to be a hero and stand out from the rest. This necessity to be the best can be explained by the years of his being ‘average’.
It is possible to state that Richard Angelo who was sentenced to 50-year imprisonment for killing four people faced one major dilemma.
He believed he could risk other people’s lives to save them and become a hero. He chose aging people as his victims. He did not think of sufferings he caused or possible outcomes of his actions.
It is necessary to note that Richard Angelo thought he was able to revive people. He though the risks were insignificant.
However, the most horrible thing is that he seemed to fail to understand that what he did was wrong and inhumane. He seemed to fail to understand that it was impossible to become a hero at the expense of other people’s lives.
Associated Press. (1990, January 25). Oil Nurse gets 50 year to life. Times Daily, p. 3A.
Sattinger, A. (2007). Heinous crimes. The Hospitalist. Web.
Schmitt, E. (1987). Nurse known as dedicated worker. The New York Times. Web.
Yorker, B.C., Kizer, K.W., Lampe, P., Forrest, A.R.W., Path, F.R.C., Chem. C., Lannan, J.M., Russel, D.A. (2006). Serial murder by healthcare professionals. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(6), 1362-1371.