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PERFECT POISON: A Female Killer's Deadly Medicine
by M. William Phelps
Pinnacle Books, June 2003
477 pages
ISBN: 0786015500

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Murder is a vile crime that seems even more horrendous when perpetrated by a person in a position of trust. Kristin Gilbert was a registered nurse with an excellent reputation both as a health care professional as well as wife and mother.

Known for her calmness and efficiency during medical emergencies, she also was her department's most knowledgeable medication nurse. Given the nickname "Angel of Death" by co-workers (because of the large number of deaths and codes that occurred during her shifts ) it was originally meant only in a teasing manner-later the truth in the name would shock the whole hospital.

Three nurses who worked closely with the accused had separately begun to notice a trend of more deaths and cardiac arrests on Kristen's watch while it was obvious there was a much smaller number of such an occurrence during the hours or days she was not working.

These two women and one man became very worried about their patients. At the same time they were frightened and hesitant about accusing a fellow professional of such a heinous crime; they were also concerned with the effect it would have on them if they were in error.

At some point they each realized that the other two seemed concerned; at last they confided in one another and took their information to the nurse manager. The official investigation began after that and took a number of years to complete.

The majority of health care professionals take their responsibilities very seriously, after all patients entrust them with their lives.

As a nurse myself I know that our goal is to aid the patient in his return to health, and if that is not possible to treat the dying with respect, compassion and comfort. I can never fathom what goes on the mind of a nurse, doctor, pharmacist who betrays mankind by using their skills to harm instead of to heal. Kristen Gilbert, female serial killer, appears to be one of the worst of the medical murderers.

Phelps carefully and meticulously researched this case over a two year time period. In the first third of the book he shares information on the patients, nurses, family and friends of the victims and the accused. He discusses the actual crimes. The middle covers the very long and painstaking investigation of the crime. The final section is devoted to Kirsten's two trials.

The author's style is relaxed and conversational, in fact he reproduces conversations between the participants after reassuring the readers "[that] for the sake of keeping the narrative moving and to better communicate the story, in a few instances, dialogue was recreated based on the author's investigation." (Explanatory Note)

Had he not reassured me the re-creation of participant's conversations and thoughts would have raised doubts about the authenticity of his story. Phelps wrote a fascinating story of a woman who cared only for herself, who judged all events, even the life or death of another human being, according to how such events related to her life.

Reviewed by Martha Hopkins, July 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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