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Nurse Convicted of Neglect and Negligent Homicide for Fatal Drug Error

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse criminally prosecuted for a deadly drug error in 2017, was convicted of gross neglect of an impaired grownup and negligent murder Friday after a three-day trial that gripped nurses throughout the nation.

Vaught faces three to 6 years in jail for neglect and one to 2 years for negligent murder as a defendant with no prior convictions, based on sentencing tips supplied by the Nashville district legal professional’s workplace. Vaught is scheduled to be sentenced May 13, and her sentences are prone to run concurrently, stated DA spokesperson Steve Hayslip.

Vaught was acquitted of reckless murder. Criminally negligent murder was a lesser cost included beneath reckless murder.

Vaught’s trial has been carefully watched by nurses and medical professionals throughout the nation, lots of whom fear it may set a precedent of criminalizing medical errors. Medical errors are typically dealt with by skilled licensing boards or civil courts, and legal prosecutions like Vaught’s case are exceedingly uncommon.

Janie Harvey Garner, the founding father of Show Me Your Stethoscope, a Facebook nursing group with greater than 600,000 members, fearful the conviction would have a chilling impact on nurses disclosing their very own errors or near-errors, which might have a detrimental impact on the standard of affected person care.

“Health care just changed forever,” she stated after the decision. “You can no longer trust people to tell the truth because they will be incriminating themselves.”

Vaught, 38, of Bethpage, Tennessee, was arrested in 2019 and charged with reckless murder and gross neglect of an impaired grownup in reference to the killing of Charlene Murphey, who died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in late December 2017. The neglect cost stemmed from allegations that Vaught didn’t correctly monitor Murphey after she was injected with the improper drug.

Murphey, 75, of Gallatin, Tennessee, was admitted to Vanderbilt for a mind harm. At the time of the error, her situation was enhancing, and she or he was being ready for discharge from the hospital, based on courtroom testimony and a federal investigation report. Murphey was prescribed a sedative, Versed, to calm her earlier than being scanned in a big, MRI-like machine.

Vaught was tasked to retrieve Versed from a computerized treatment cupboard however as a substitute grabbed a strong paralyzer, vecuronium. According to an investigation report filed in her court docket case, the nurse ignored a number of warning indicators as she withdrew the improper drug — together with that Versed is a liquid however vecuronium is a powder — after which injected Murphey and left her to be scanned. By the time the error was found, Murphey was brain-dead.

During the trial, prosecutors painted Vaught as an irresponsible and uncaring nurse who ignored her coaching and deserted her affected person. Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson likened Vaught to a drunken driver who killed a bystander, however stated the nurse was “worse” as a result of it was as if she was “driving with [her] eyes closed.”

“The immutable fact of this case is that Charlene Murphey is dead because RaDonda Vaught could not bother to pay attention to what she was doing,” Jackson stated.

Vaught’s legal professional, Peter Strianse, argued that his shopper made an trustworthy mistake that didn’t represent a criminal offense and have become a “scapegoat” for systemic issues associated to treatment cupboards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017.

But Vanderbilt officers countered on the stand. Terry Bosen, Vanderbilt’s pharmacy treatment security officer, testified that the hospital had some technical issues with treatment cupboards in 2017 however that they have been resolved weeks earlier than Vaught pulled the improper drug for Murphey.

In his closing assertion, Strianse focused the reckless murder cost, arguing that his shopper couldn’t have “recklessly” disregarded warning indicators if she earnestly believed she had the proper drug and saying that there was “considerable debate” over whether or not vecuronium really killed Murphey.

During the trial, Dr. Eli Zimmerman, a Vanderbilt neurologist, testified it was “in the realm of possibility” Murphey’s demise was induced solely by her mind harm. Additionally, Davidson County Chief Medical Examiner Feng Li testified that though he decided Murphey died from vecuronium, he couldn’t confirm how a lot of the drug she really obtained. Li stated a small dose might not have been deadly.

“I don’t mean to be facetious,” Strianse stated of the medical expert’s testimony, “but it sort of sounded like some amateur ‘CSI’ episode — only without the science.”

Vaught didn’t testify. On the second day of the trial, prosecutors performed an audio recording of Vaught’s interview with legislation enforcement officers by which she admitted to the drug error and stated she “probably just killed a patient.”

During a separate continuing earlier than the Tennessee Board of Nursing final yr, Vaught testified that she allowed herself to develop into “complacent” and “distracted” whereas utilizing the treatment cupboard and didn’t double-check which drug she had withdrawn regardless of a number of alternatives.

“I know the reason this patient is no longer here is because of me,” Vaught informed the nursing board, beginning to cry. “There won’t ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I did.”

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