Tennessee nurse guilty of accidentally killing woman with wrong drug


Former Tennessee nurse guilty of accidentally giving a patient the wrong drug and killing her (Picture: AP)

A former Tennessee nurse has been found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of a patient who was accidentally given the wrong medication.

RaDonda Vaught, 38, injected the paralyzing drug vecuronium into 75-year-old Charlene Murphey instead of the sedative, Versed, on December 26, 2017. Murphey died after being injected with the powerful paralyzing drug.

Vaught was convicted by a jury on Friday of criminal negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult, The Tennessean reported.

The trial was closely watched by nurses and medical professionals across the country, many worried the case could set a precedent for medical errors leading to criminal charges.

Vaught, a former nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was indicted in 2019 on the two charges in Murphey’s death.

The unintentional drug switch left Murphey unable to breathe, and the following day she became brain dead. She died just after Christmas in 2017.

Vaught had admitted to the error and a coroner declared Murphey’s cause of death to be accidental.

‘I am just relieved that this portion of the process is over,’ Vaught told reporters after the verdict was read. ‘I hope that they (Murphey’s family) are also just as relieved to be moving away from this process that has been held up in the legal system for four and a half years. I hope that they are able to find peace with the resolution of this process.’

Prosecutors argued that Vaught had disregarded plenty of warnings when she took the wrong drug from an electronic dispensing cabinet that required medical staff to search for the drug they required by name.

‘This wasn’t an accident or mistake as it’s been claimed,’ Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson said. ‘There were multiple chances for RaDonda Vaught to just pay attention.’

Attorneys for Vaught argued that while the death was a horrific accident, the consequence does not make Vaught’s mistake a conscious, criminal act of homicide.

‘I hope it doesn’t set any legal precedent. I hope that this district attorney’s office or other district attorney’s office will not see this as open season on medical errors,’ defense attorney Peter Strianse said Friday.

The American Nurses Association on Wednesday released a statement of concern the trial could set a worrying precedent and discourage nurses from reporting errors. They worried the trend could ultimately hinder patient safety.

Vaught’s sentencing has been set for May. She will likely face three to six years in prison for the gross neglect conviction and one to two years for criminally negligent homicide.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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