NASHVILLE, Tenn. — RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse at Vanderbilt College Medical Heart, will serve three years of probation for criminally negligent murder and felony abuse stemming from a drugs error that killed a affected person in 2017.
The uncommon felony prosecution of a healthcare employee has garnered nationwide consideration. Nursing advocates say the conviction will end in fewer clinicians coming ahead once they make errors, for concern of felony punishment.
Vaught confronted as much as eight years in jail after a Tennessee jury convicted her of the 2 felony expenses in March. Davidson County District Legal professional Glenn Funk (D) charged Vaught with reckless murder in February 2019, however the jury discovered her responsible of lesser expenses. Tennessee additionally revoked her nursing license after initially taking no motion towards her.
On Friday, Davidson County Choose Jennifer Smith issued a three-year jail sentence, however granted Vaught supervised probation, which permits the former healthcare employee to keep away from incarceration.
“This offense occurred in a medical setting. It was not motivated by any intent to violate the regulation,” Smith mentioned. “She has no felony report. She’s been eliminated from the healthcare setting. She will by no means apply nursing once more. The state of affairs will by no means be repeated.”
Vaught apologized to the household of Charlene Murphey, the 75-year-old affected person who died when Vaught administered the mistaken drug. “She might no longer be right here, however she is very a lot alive in my thoughts. Each day, she reminds me of the penalties of my actions,” Vaught testified earlier than Smith introduced the sentence.
Earlier than Smith delivered her resolution, witnesses representing the sufferer testified in favor of mercy. “Realizing the means my mother was, she would not need any jail time. My mother was a very forgiving particular person,” mentioned Michael Murphey, Charlene’s son.
Charlene Murphey was admitted to Vanderbilt College Medical Heart’s neurological intensive care unit with mind bleeding. Earlier than a PET scan, she was prescribed a sedative for nerves.
Whereas retrieving the remedy, Vaught overrode an automatic meting out cupboard with out an order from a doctor or verification from a pharmacist and mistakenly chosen vecuronium, a neuromuscular drug that briefly paralyzes the affected person and requires a ventilator to help the lungs.
Vaught administered the vecuronium with out recording it into Murphey’s affected person report and left, in accordance with a Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Providers investigation. Murphey was discovered unresponsive and not using a pulse roughly half-hour later. She later suffered a cardiac arrest that left her mind lifeless. Murphey was faraway from a ventilator the subsequent day and died 10 minutes later.
Prosecutors argued Vaught disregarded a system of safeguards put in place to maintain sufferers secure from medical errors and abdicated requirements of care by not monitoring Murphey after administering the medication.
Vaught admitted her errors and reported the error as quickly as she realized it had occurred, CMS discovered. At trial, Vaught’s protection attorneys argued her actions did not warrant a murder conviction and that the hospital bears partial accountability.
A regulation enforcement officer disagreed in testimony delivered on the sentencing listening to. “She felt by telling the reality that it’s going to go away and that she must be rewarded for being trustworthy. Honesty is an incredible factor, but it surely would not take away accountability. I do not suppose that she feels she must be accountable. She feels another person must be held accountable,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Particular Agent Ramona Smith mentioned.
CMS uncovered main deficiencies in Vanderbilt College Medical Heart’s response to the occasion. The Nashville-based hospital did not report circumstances surrounding Murphey’s loss of life to the Tennessee Division of Well being and the Davidson County health worker. The fatality was initially declared as ensuing from pure causes.
CMS threatened to droop reimbursement and made Vanderbilt develop a corrective plan of motion and endure a probationary interval. The response included including several new safeguards to the medical meting out cupboards and eradicating vecuronium from them solely. The medical middle additionally settled out-of-court with Murphey’s household for an undisclosed quantity. The hospital didn’t face felony expenses.
Healthcare staff and affected person security teams rallied round Vaught throughout the trial, expressing concern that criminalizing mistakes will lead to cover-ups and inhibit progress designing techniques which can be immune to human error. Many additionally concern the choice to prosecute will trigger clinicians to leave the workforce entirely.
“Healthcare supply is extremely complicated. It’s inevitable that errors will occur, and techniques will fail. It’s fully unrealistic to suppose in any other case,” the American Nurses Affiliation mentioned in an announcement after the conviction in March. “The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict units into movement a harmful precedent. There are more practical and simply mechanisms to look at errors, set up system enhancements and take corrective motion.”
The American Hospital Affiliation mentioned on the time that the conviction “may have a chilling impact on the tradition of security in healthcare.”
“Felony prosecutions for unintentional acts are the mistaken strategy,” Robyn Begley, chief nursing officer of the AHA, mentioned in a press launch in March. “They discourage well being caregivers from coming ahead with their errors, and can complicate efforts to retain and recruit extra folks in to nursing and different healthcare professions which can be already understaffed and strained by years of caring for sufferers throughout the pandemic.”
After the conviction, Funk’s workplace launched an announcement making an attempt to stroll again fears of broader felony prosecution of medical errors by clinicians.
“The jury’s conviction of RaDonda Vaught was not an indictment towards the nursing occupation or the medical neighborhood,” the assertion mentioned. “This case was, and all the time has been in regards to the gross neglect by RaDonda Vaught that triggered the loss of life of Charlene Murphey. This was not a ‘singular’ or ‘momentary’ mistake.”