Nurse Convicted in Lethal Drug Error
A recent NPR article detailed how a former Tennessee nurse was convicted of two felonies associated with a lethal drug error. Although nurse RaDonda Vaught will not spend time in prison, the very public trial has made nurses across the nation fearful that nursing errors could result in criminal prosecution. A former nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Vaught faced up to eight years in prison for the death in 2017 of 75-year-old Charlene Murphey.
Vaught unintentionally administered the drug vecuronium, a paralytic, instead of Versed, a sedative to Murphey. Most nursing errors—even when those errors are fatal—are not prosecuted criminally, rather outcomes are determined by state medical/nursing boards and civil lawsuits. While prosecutors argued during the trial that Vaught overlooked multiple warning signs when she grabbed the wrong drug, her defense focused on the fact that it was an honest mistake—not a criminal offense.
Nursing and medical organizations condemned the criminal prosecution, saying it will worsen the nursing shortage, preventing nurses from coming forward following an accident like this one. Edie Brous, a nurse and attorney in Pennsylvania, noted that many people—including doctors and pharmacists—are involved in medical treatment but nurses take the fall because they ultimately administered the drug.
Brous believes nurses are the “low-hanging fruit” among medical professionals. As you might imagine, cases like Vaught’s make nurses fearful of doing their jobs. If you are a nurse who is facing a similar situation, it is imperative that you speak to attorney Barb Forshier at Forshier Law, LLC. Barb has dedicated her practice to protecting and caring for those who dedicate their lives to those in need.
Would I Face Criminal Charges if I Lost My Nursing License?
Typically, when nursing errors like the one RaDonda Vaught made occur, the nurse will face a nursing board review, potentially losing their nursing license. It is extremely rare that a nurse would also face criminal charges. Mistakes are often made in part due to system issues such as—long hours, imperfect protocols, crowded hospitals, and a touch of complacency that strikes those who deal with life-and-death situations on a regular basis. The prosecutor in Vaught’s case focused on the nurse’s use of an electronic medication cabinet. This is a computerized device that dispenses a range of drugs.
Vaught triggered an override to unlock a larger array of medications when typing VE did not pull up the Versed medication. The prosecutor claimed that Vaught would have had to overlook or bypass at least five warnings or pop-ups saying she was withdrawing a paralytic. Vaught acknowledged she performed an override on the cabinet, however, most nurses asked stated overrides are a normal operating procedure used on a daily basis at all hospitals. In fact, many nurses view the override process as routine, rather than risky, as it is often used in urgent or emergent situations. However, any time you override a safety feature make sure you have a valid reason and are covered by the facility policy to do so.
Because the Vaught case was criminally prosecuted, there are fears that criminal prosecutions will become the norm following mistakes. Whether that will actually happen is up for debate, however, in the future, many nurses may be less likely than they would have to admit to a mistake. If criminal charges are filed, it is extremely important that a criminal defense attorney be consulted as early on in the process as possible.
When Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you have been accused of wrongdoing at work, and believe you could be criminally prosecuted, it is imperative that you speak to a criminal defense attorney who can better assess the situation. Barbara Forshier at Forshier Law works collaboratively with criminal defense attorneys when necessary for license matters that may also have criminal implications. Obviously, losing your nursing license due to nursing errors is a blow to your career and your life, but criminal charges can be much worse. It is up to you to ensure your future is protected to the extent possible, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you do that. Attorney Barbara Forshier can help you through this difficult time and is the advocate you want on your side if you must defend your nursing license.
Being called before the Minnesota Board of Nursing is an overwhelming and frightening ordeal. Barbara will take care of you, providing knowledgeable legal assistance while also offering understanding, encouragement, and respect. Whether your charges center around a neglect or mistreatment allegation, a criminal allegation, or a conduct allegation, you want to make sure you have the very best defense possible.
How Forshier Law Can Help Against Nursing Errors
When you need a Minnesota attorney to defend your nursing license, contact attorney Barbara Forshier. While Forshier Law does not represent criminal offenses, we can provide a consult for a criminal attorney. As a former nurse, Barbara Forshier has special knowledge in the field and knows how to work with the licensing boards. Barbara will prepare you for the steps you need to take to fight for your nursing license.
While working tirelessly to assist and advocate for healthcare professionals, Barbara cares for her clients in the same way they care for their patients—with kindness, compassion, and a unique set of skills and experience. Forshier Law, LLC is a small firm dedicated to defending healthcare licensees before the state licensing board. Barbara has represented more hundreds of nurses before the Minnesota Board of Nursing, recently expanding her practice to include the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy and Social Worker licensees. Contact Forshier Law, LLC today.