Former nurse gets 5 years for infecting patients with hepatitis C, stealing opioids

A former nurse at two Utah hospitals was sentenced to five years in federal prison for stealing opioids and infecting at least seven patients with hepatitis C, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune. 

Elet Neilson, 53, who pleaded guilty to two felonies last September, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson Jan. 13. As part of her plea deal, prosecutors dropped a dozen other charges. 

Ms. Neilson, who has a rare strain of hepatitis C, worked at Ogden-based McKay-Dee Hospital and Layton-based Davis Hospital and Medical Center.

She admitted to injecting herself with painkillers before giving the remainder of the dose to patients, according to Deseret News.

In other instances she filled two syringes with pain medication and administered one to the patient and pocketed the other to use at home. She would then bring the needle and syringe back to work to get more medication. Ms. Neilson's lawyer said that in the chaos of the emergency room and hospital, the syringes and needles were mixed up, according to the Tribune.

Ms. Neilson pleaded guilty to infecting seven patients; however, the Utah Department of Health estimated that at least 16 people were infected with hepatitis C. 

State health officials also estimated that the former nurse exposed as many as 7,200 patients to hepatitis C.

Officials began offering testing for patients that she cared for in 2015. About a month after health officials began testing patients, she surrendered her nursing license.

During the sentencing, the former nurse teared up and told the judge that she was "repulsed by my own behavior" and never thought her actions would affect so many people.

"I was ravaged with guilt, shame, sickness," she said, according to the Tribune. "When I saw and understood through the media that seven other people had the same strain that I did, I was devastated and sickened. I didn’t want to crawl out of my house. I didn’t want to be seen in public. I was physically sick."

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