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Former nurse RaDonda Vaught on Friday was found guilty of negligent homicide after she injected a 75-year-old woman with the wrong medication, resulting in her death.
Vaught injected patient Charlene Murphey with vecuronium, a paralytic drug that stopped Murphey’s breathing instead of Versed for easing anxiety, according to News Channel 5 Nashville.
Murphey had been hospitalized at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017 because of a brain bleed.
Vaught was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult.
The jury in Vaught’s case did not find her guilty of reckless homicide, with which she was initially charged.
Vaught was fired from the Vanderbilt medical center following the incident, and the Tennessee Board of Nursing unanimously voted to revoke her nursing license in 2021.
Testifying before the Board of Nursing, Vaught said that she had been “complacent” and “distracted” in delivering the medicine to Murphey.
“I know the reason this patient is no longer here is because of me,” she said, crying. “There won’t ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I did.”
Prosecutor Donna Jones said that Vaught’s testimony showed her guilt in the situation.
“She admitted she had given Versed prior, but never vecuronium,” said Jones. “She admitted she was distracted. She admitted she shouldn’t have been distracted with something other than the medication. She admitted she shouldn’t have overrode the medication.”
“The immutable fact of this case is that Charlene Murphey is dead because RaDonda Vaught could not bother to pay attention to what she was doing,” added Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson.
Defense witness Leanna Craft, a nurse educator at the medical center, said that the culture of the hospital may have added to Vaught’s confusion in the situation.
“We have a lot of newer nurses there that do a lot of, you know, they follow physicians’ orders and what other people tell them. They don’t have a lot of experience, as far as being able to make a lot of independent decisions. They do make independent decisions, but they tend to look at orders and what other people tend to do in the unit,” said Craft.
Neurologist Eli Zimmerman and Davidson County Chief Medical Examiner Feng Li testified that a small dose of vecuronium may not have killed Murphey, adding that it is “in the realm of possibility” that Murphey died due to the brain injury and not the medication.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) and Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA) released a joint statement Friday in opposition to the verdict, arguing that “the criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent.”
“We are deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest reporting of mistakes,” it read. “Health care delivery is highly complex. It is inevitable that mistakes will happen, and systems will fail.”
“This ruling will have a long-lasting negative impact on the profession,” the ANA and TNA added.
Vaught will be sentenced in Tennessee court May 13.