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April 01, 2022

Former nurse found guilty in accidental injection death of patient

Last week, —a jury found former Tennessee nurse RaDonda Vaught guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult for accidentally giving the wrong medication to a 75-year-old patient with a brain injury. The event in question took place in 2017, when the ICU nurse administered the paralytic vecuronium to the patient instead of the sedative versed after bypassing or ignoring some safety precautions that might have prevented the error.  Vaught had already lost her job and her license, and now faces 3-6 years in prison for neglect and 1-2 years for negligent homicide, with the sentences expected to run concurrently. Sentencing is scheduled for May 13. Many healthcare professionals worry this case could set a precedent of criminalizing medical mistakes that are typically handled by professional licensing boards. The American Nurses Association issued a statement warning that criminalizing unintentional medical errors in this way will chill the culture of safety vital to maintaining and improving the quality of patient care, an alarm that has been echoed by other commentators, including physicians.