Respiratory therapists defend their profession by speaking out against Efren Saldivar, the “Angel of Death.”

By Paige Smith

I’m sure many of you are aware of the recent controversy stemming from a series of articles that were published in the Los Angeles Times concerning ex-respiratory therapist Efren Saldivar, aka the “Angel of Death,” who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering six patients with intravenous injections of paralyzing drugs. The articles portrayed respiratory care as less than professional, making insinuations such as RCPs are “like high school kids.”

Paige Smith
Paige Smith

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) became concerned about this inaccurate portrayal of the profession and urged therapists to write letters to the Times and emphasize that the majority of therapists take their jobs quite seriously. The Times printed three of these letters and appropriately gave them the title, “Saldivar Gives His Profession a Black Eye.” This slogan was part of the first letter sent by Michael Ryan, a respiratory therapist from Venice, Calif. Ryan said that Saldivar not only represents human failure, but the failure of a respiratory care department to exercise cross-checks within the department itself. Another letter came from the president of the California Society for Respiratory Care (CSRC) who stressed that this is an isolated case and that RCPs are “dedicated, educated, and highly skilled professionals.” He went on to say that the CSRC and AARC condemn any legal or unethical acts performed by Saldivar or his coworkers. There are 20,000 other California therapists who take care of their patients with compassion and skill.

It is wonderful that RCPs had a chance to respond to those articles to let the public know that this case is not the norm. Saldivar represents one isolated case; most therapists are truly angels of respiratory care.

On a lighter note, I’d like to introduce RT Magazine’s new look as we decided it was time for a face-lift. Don’t worry, you will still receive the same up-to-date articles including facility profiles, case reports, and guest editorials, as well as late-breaking news and of course the “infamous” lungs that have graced the cover of each issue for the past 13 years. To complement RT’s new look, we have added new members to the Editorial Advisory Board. These top-notch professionals include Patricia Carroll, RN,C, CEN, RRT, MS, Pulmonary Associates of the Southeast, Meriden, Conn; Dan Hatlestad, Clinical Marketing Services, Littleton, Colo; and John A. Wolfe, RRT, Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, Colo.

The RT team is interested in your comments and suggestions, so please send them to my attention.


Paige Smith is the former editor of RT. For more information, contact [email protected].