chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
April 22, 2022

Criminal Conviction of Nurse for Fatal Medication Error Diminishes Patient Safety

Tennessee nurse RaDonda Vaught made a fatal medication error in 2017 while working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Local prosecutors charged nurse Vaught with criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult, and she was tried and convicted in March. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the American Nurses Association have expressed concern that such prosecutions will have a chilling effect on patient safety for several reasons.  A robust culture of safety relies on self-reporting and transparency to drive process improvement, and criminalizing errors instead foments blame and creates fear. Additionally, a focus on punishing individuals for medical errors diverts attention from flaws in systems of care that may require improvement in order to minimize the risk of such errors happening again.