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Ex-nurse convicted of injecting patient with wrong drug gets probation

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RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse in Tennessee who was convicted on felony charges for fatally injecting a patient with an incorrect drug, was sentenced to probation Friday in a case that became a rallying cry for health-care workers fearful that medical mistakes would be criminalised.

Vaught, who worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, faced up to eight years in prison for giving 75-year-old Charlene Murphey a fatal dose of the wrong medication in December 2017. Prosecutors said that instead of giving Murphey a dose of the sedative Versed, Vaught injected the patient with the powerful muscle relaxant vecuronium, which left her unable to breathe. Vaught, 38, was convicted in March of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult.

Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith ruled Friday that Vaught would be granted a judicial diversion, meaning the conviction would be expunged from the records if she completed a three-year probation.

“Ms. Vaught is well aware of the seriousness of the offense,” Smith said, according to NPR, noting that the Murphey family had suffered a “terrible loss.” “She credibly expressed remorse in this courtroom.”

The judge added that Vaught, who was shaking and had broken into tears as the order was read, had no previous criminal record and would never be a nurse again.

Vaught, who took responsibility for her actions immediately, had apologized to the Murphey family in court, saying she’d “be forever haunted by my role in her untimely passing.”

The judge’s sentencing Vaught to probation instead of prison ends a case that has galvanised healthcare workers who have spoken out against poor working conditions that have only been exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical errors, including those that result in death, are usually dealt with by state medical boards. Lawsuits against those involved in fatal medical mistakes are almost never prosecuted in criminal court, which made Vaught’s case a matter of national interest in recent months.

Read full story  (paywalled)

Source: Washington Post, 14 May 2022

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