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, in keeping with sentencing tips supplied by the Nashville district legal professional’s workplace. Vaught is scheduled to be sentenced Might 13, and her sentences are more likely 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, many of whom fear it may set a precedent of criminalizing medical errors. Medical errors are usually dealt with by skilled licensing boards or civil courts, and prison prosecutions like Vaught’s case are exceedingly uncommon.
Janie Harvey Garner, the founder of Present Me Your Stethoscope, a Fb nursing group with greater than 600,000 members, anxious 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.
“Well being care simply modified perpetually,” she stated after the decision. “You may not belief folks to inform the reality as a result of they are going to 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 College Medical Heart in late December 2017. The neglect cost stemmed from allegations that Vaught didn’t correctly monitor Murphey after she was injected with the mistaken drug.
Murphey, 75, of Gallatin, Tennessee, was admitted to Vanderbilt for a mind damage. On the time of the error, her situation was enhancing, and she was being ready for discharge from the hospital, in keeping with 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 medicine cupboard however as an alternative grabbed a strong paralyzer, vecuronium. Based on an investigation report filed in her court docket case, the nurse missed a number of warning indicators as she withdrew the mistaken drug — together with that Versed is a liquid however vecuronium is a powder — and then injected Murphey and left her to be scanned. By the point the error was found, Murphey was brain-dead.
Through the trial, prosecutors painted Vaught as an irresponsible and uncaring nurse who ignored her coaching and deserted her affected person. Assistant District Legal professional 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 truth of this case is that Charlene Murphey is lifeless as a result of RaDonda Vaught couldn’t trouble to concentrate to what she was doing,” Jackson stated.
Vaught’s legal professional, Peter Strianse, argued that his shopper made an sincere mistake that didn’t represent a criminal offense and grew to become a “scapegoat” for systemic issues associated to medicine cupboards at Vanderbilt College Medical Heart in 2017.
However Vanderbilt officers countered on the stand. Terry Bosen, Vanderbilt’s pharmacy medicine security officer, testified that the hospital had some technical issues with medicine cupboards in 2017 however that they had been resolved weeks earlier than Vaught pulled the mistaken 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 “appreciable debate” over whether or not vecuronium truly killed Murphey.
Through the trial, Dr. Eli Zimmerman, a Vanderbilt neurologist, testified it was “within the realm of chance” Murphey’s dying was triggered solely by her mind damage. Moreover, 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 truly acquired. Li stated a small dose could not have been deadly.
“I don’t imply to be facetious,” Strianse stated of the health worker’s testimony, “but it surely kind of seemed like some newbie ‘CSI’ episode — solely with out the science.”
Vaught didn’t testify. On the second day of the trial, prosecutors performed an audio recording of Vaught’s interview with regulation enforcement officers wherein she admitted to the drug error and stated she “in all probability simply killed a affected person.”
Throughout 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 medicine cupboard and didn’t double-check which drug she had withdrawn regardless of a number of alternatives.
“I do know the explanation this affected person is not right here is as a result of of me,” Vaught instructed the nursing board, beginning to cry. “There gained’t ever be a day that goes by that I don’t take into consideration what I did.”
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