Tuesday, March 15, 2011

True Crime Tuesday: Fallen Angel Bad Guys

JAN: When I was a health reporter, I regularly interviewed doctors and nurses, and I was so impressed by their integrity and sense of mission, that when I needed a no-good doctor to help falsify injuries for insurance fraud in Yesterday's Fatal, I had a hard time creating the character. While I could believe there were plenty of dirtbag lawyers for the scam, I couldn't come up with one scummy doctor. Finally, my friend, a Rhode Island prosecutor said, "Oh for God's sake, just him high alimony payments or a gambling problem - he'll do anything for the extra money."

So that's what I had to do in my head before I started writing. But this belief in the goodness in doctors persists. That's why I think I'm so intrigued by the Needham doctor and nurse practitioner charged as "croakers," that's a doctor who writes prescriptions for high test drugs for people who don't really need them. Besides the distribution of controlled substances charges, the doctor is accused of writing a script for methadone that killed six people. Prosecutors allege the pair ran a veritable mill, seeing forty to fifty people a day and writing scripts for plenty more who never even bothered to come in for an exam.

What fascinates me more than anything, is how this doctor and nurse got here. My guess is that these two started off with the same integrity and mission to heal that I saw in the doctors and nurses I interviewed, and that life events put them on a different path.

So what are those life events? The pressures? What did they start telling themselves? How much money did they need to make it worthwhile? To risk their careers? (not to mention their lives, both are facing life imprisonment). And assuming we started this story before they got caught and hauled into court, how far would they go to protect their secret?

Come on everyone -- we're making stuff up here. These are the ultimate bad guys, fallen angels.


  1. Jan, so interesting. I think people do things incrementally..deciding, oh, just one pill or two, it won't matter. And then it becomes more and more...but one step at a time, until they're somewere they could never imagine being.

    Rationalization is a scary thing.

  2. I'd have an easier time coming up with an "Angel of Death" theory, but these two seemed a bit less selective, unless of course the patients were bothersome or nasty people and they felt the world would be better off without them. I did have a doctor (once) who seemed on the edge of burnout. I mentioned this to my (then) teenage daughter and she said "Find a new one, Mom. This guy could end up putting you in the hospital." I took her advice and have had a great MD for the past 20 years.We yell at each other, but he and his staff are fantastic.
    I agree with Hank though...just like addiction, it's the whole "one more won't hurt" scenario...one step at a time. Un less it was all about the power. I keep thinking of Alec Baldwin in Malice... his character definitely had a God complex.

  3. Sheer unadulterated greed, Jan.
    Greed is a powerful driving force.
    Or maybe if we want to be nicer we can explain it by saying doctor had huge debts from med school, didn't make the money he dreamed of, debt hanging over him and saw a chance to make money without earning it. Once he started the greed kicked in.

    And how funny: my kapcha word is Midous--it's amazing how often they are apt.

  4. Yes, I can see both Hank's scenario and Rhys' theories. What I find so baffling is all the TIME and dedication it takes to becoming a doctor and PFFF, changing gears like that.

    I know.....maybe the guy just got sick of all the paperwork for insurance reimbursement.....

  5. We had a case here where a doctor went home on Valentine's Day and killed his wife.

    Doctors and nurses are "just" people, even though "regular" people tend to put them on a pedestal. They perpetrate Medicare and insurance fraud. They hawk questionable medical "cures", and they write prescriptions for cash. Med school loans and malpractice insurance is expensive, don'tcha know? And I know many doctors who've become addicts, including the plastic surgeon who operated on my mother. That was covered up because she was married the the DA at the time. Luckily, Mother came out unscathed.

    And since I'm married to a lawyer...uhm...yeah. Good and bad in that profession. LOL Mine happens to be one of the good one. Of course. ;D

  6. I've written a very bad doctor indeed (won't say which book for spoiler reasons) and he was based on a real doctor that a nurse friend of mine had worked with. Both the real and the fictional doctors were sociopaths with absolutely no conscience.

    I think doctors are just as fallible as the rest of us. Most are dedicated care-givers, but when they go wrong they can go very, very wrong. Which makes them great subjects for crime writers.

  7. It's horrifying to think that someone who literally holds your life in his (or her) hands could willfully hurt you. So doctors, priests, mothers... who hurt the people entrusted to their care... that's truly scary. Politicians and lawyers being bad--not so much.

  8. Yes, Hallie, we expect politicians to be bad.....so sad, really.

    Recently on the web I saw an actual study on why politician's cheat -- having to do with that drive they have for adoration.

    But that's another True Crime Tuesday....


  9. I'm with Rhys on this...pure greed. My problem would be building the motivation for the character. Why? I just don't understand 'bad' people. It must be all those 'be good' lectures from my parents and all that Girl Scout training.

  10. You're right, Pat - this is why most real crooks make lousy characters!

  11. I was married to someone in the healthcare field specialy psych which is ironic considering the outcome. In my home research of trying to find out about his "extra curricular activities" I opened pandoras box.
    I found out I was married to a true sociopath, the affair he was having was with a patient. In finding this out, I found out he was writing scripts for cash, for co-workers and just writing for drug companies to obtain benefits.
    What I uncovered was bizzare and If I had not lived it would not believe it. In my own investigating my ex's affair(s) I uncovered a multitude of lies and deceit not only from him but from the company he works with including co workers. I am very leary of psychiatric practitioners now and the drugs and drug companies that are associated with this field.