Former Vanderbilt nurse found guilty

A jury convicted former Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult,The Tennessean reports. 

The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before reaching their verdict on March 25. A practicing registered nurse and a former respiratory therapist made up two of the jurors. Ms. Vaught will be sentenced by Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith ⁠— who heard the case ⁠— on May 13. She faces up to eight years in prison. 

Ms. Vaught faced criminal charges of reckless homicide and impaired adult abuse for a medical error made in December 2017, when she inadvertently injected a 75-year-old patient with a powerful paralyzer, vecuronium, when she was prescribed a sedative, Versed, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. She was fired from the hospital, stripped of her nursing license and indicted in 2019 on charges of reckless homicide and impaired adult abuse.

Ms. Vaught has taken responsibility for the error from the outset. 

"Knowing what I know now — even if the jury finds me guilty, even if Judge Smith decides that prison time is the appropriate sentencing for this and it's the maximum amount of time — I have zero regrets about telling the truth," she told The Tennessean while the jury was in deliberation. 

Prosecutors alleged Ms. Vaught consciously dismissed warnings and risks when she obtained the wrong medication from an electronic dispensing cabinet that required her to search for the drug by name, making her culpable in the patient's death. Defense argued that while the patient's death is tragic and irreversible, the outsized consequence does not make the error a deliberate, criminal act of homicide.

This week, the American Nurses Association said the trial could have a "chilling effect" on medical error reporting and process improvement in healthcare. 

"COVID-19 has already exhausted and overwhelmed the nursing workforce to a breaking point," ANA said.

"ANA maintains that this tragic incident must serve as [a] reminder that vigilance and open collaboration among regulators, administrators and healthcare teams is critical at the patient and system level to continue to provide high-quality care."


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