Is 'The Good Nurse' a True Story? Here's How Charles Cullen's Arrest Really Happened

is 'the good nurse' a true story here's how charles cullen's arrest really happened
Is 'The Good Nurse' on Netflix a True Story?Getty Images

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As Netflix continues to build its empire of true crime stories, the streamer is introducing viewers to the life of another serial killer — ICU nurse Charles Cullen.

Portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, the new movie follows Charles as he commits dozens of murders over the course of 16 years. Without the help of his co-worker Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) wearing a wire, police would have never discovered the true extent of his crimes and arrested him in December 2003. What's more, while Charles eventually confessed to committing 40 murders in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, investigators believed the exact number of victims reached closer to 400.

Since the Netflix film is a biopic, it has lead viewers to wonder how much of the plot lines up with Charles and Amy's real-life experiences. So, is The Good Nurse based on a true story?

Is The Good Nurse based on a true story?

Yes — The Good Nurse is based on true events that occurred between Charles Cullen and Amy Loughren.

In Charles Graeber's 2013 novel of the same name, he writes the backstory of how the two nurses met. Amy worked closely with the killer while they were on staff at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey. When detectives Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich) and Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) began investigating the deaths of patients with high levels of the heart-effecting drug digoxin, they approached Amy to see if she could give them some details about odd finding in lab reports.

In an excerpt obtained by the New York Post, the author writes that Amy was the one who first learned of her co-worker's wrongdoings. "Amy found curious combinations of drugs that Charlie had consistently ordered," he notes. "The list was long, sometimes half a dozen in a night. Amy knew these drugs to be more commonly used in a cardiac unit. Charlie was working in intensive care. His orders emptied the supply drawers."

somerville, nj   december 15  charles cullen, 43, from bethlehem, pennslyvania, is seen in a courtroom december 15, 2003 in somerville, new jersey cullen has admitted to killing 40 terminally ill patients in nine hospitals and a nursing home in the past 16 years  photo by john wheelergetty images
Charles Cullen in a courtroom on December 15, 2003.John Wheeler - Getty Images

The author continued: "Then, time and time again, Charlie ordered a restock from the pharmacy. His position meant he’d be the first to take the delivery. At the time, he was seen as being helpful. Now Amy wasn’t so sure."

While the movie may "exaggerate" Amy's interactions with the police, the story of her wearing a wire to bring her colleague to justice is accurate. By the end of 2003, People reports she agreed to do this in order to build enough evidence for his arrest.

"It's just not in my nature to betray one of my friends," she told the outlet. "But of course I knew I had to. What I love about nursing is that I could protect the vulnerable — and I'm a badass nurse."

According to The Independent, investigators asked Amy to invite Charles to lunch while wearing a wire. When she spoke to 60 Minutes about the confrontation, she told the show he uttered a haunting line before the police came to arrest him: "I want to go down fighting."

60 Minutes further noted the killer eventually confessed to the murders when Amy came down to the police station to speak with him about the events leading up to the arrest.

"I wasn’t very honest with him, and there’s a part of me — I still feel guilty about that. I was manipulating him a bit," she said on the show. "I told him the investigators were also looking at me, and how could he think that I wasn’t somehow going to be implicated? I remember saying to him, ‘So, who was your first victim? And was it a long time ago? Was it recent?’ And he started to talk."

Charles is now serving 18 consecutive life sentences and will be eligible for parole in 2403.

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