RaDonda Vaught's conviction will have long-lasting effects on nursing, ANA says

RaDonda Vaught's conviction for a fatal medical error has created a dangerous precedent that will have long-lasting effects on the nursing profession, the American Nurses Association and Tennessee Nurses Association said March 25.

A jury convicted Ms. Vaught of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult for a fatal medication error she made in December 2017 while working as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Ms. Vaught accidentally gave a 75-year-old patient vecuronium, a powerful paralyzer, instead of the routine sedative Versed after overriding an electronic dispensing cabinet. A jury deliberated for about four hours before reaching a verdict March 25. 

"We are deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest reporting of mistakes," the nursing associations said. 

The groups argue there are more effective and just ways to examine medical errors, fix broken systems and take corrective action when mistakes happen. 

"The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent," ANA and TNA said. "The non-intentional acts of individual nurses like RaDonda Vaught should not be criminalized to ensure patient safety."

In a statement to ABC affiliate WTVC, the Nashville District Attorney's Office said the verdict was not an indictment against the nursing profession or medical community. Prosecutors said the case did not involve a "'singular' or 'momentary' mistake," but rather a series of decisions made by Ms. Vaught "to ignore her nursing training" and fail to follow safety protocols. 

The jury, which included a practicing registered nurse and a former respiratory therapist, "felt this level of care was so far below the proper standard of a reasonable and prudent nurse that the verdict was justified," the statement read.

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