RaDonda Vaught, a former Tennessee nurse convicted of two felonies for a deadly drug error, whose trial turned a rallying cry for nurses terrified of the criminalization of medical errors, won’t be required to spend any time in jail.
Davidson County felony courtroom Decide Jennifer Smith on Friday granted Vaught a judicial diversion, which suggests her conviction shall be expunged if she completes a three-year probation.
Smith mentioned the Murphey household suffered a “horrible loss” and “nothing that occurs right here at this time can ease that loss.”
“Miss Vaught is effectively conscious of the seriousness of the offense,” Smith mentioned. “She credibly expressed regret on this courtroom.”
The choose famous that Vaught had no felony document, has been faraway from the well being care setting, and can by no means observe nursing once more. The choose additionally mentioned, “This was a horrible, horrible mistake and there have been penalties to the defendant.”
Because the sentence was learn, cheers erupted from a crowd of a whole bunch of purple-clad protesters who gathered outdoors the courthouse in opposition to Vaught’s prosecution.
Vaught, 38, a former nurse at Vanderbilt College Medical Heart in Nashville, confronted as much as eight years in jail. In March she was convicted of criminally negligent murder and gross neglect of an impaired grownup for the 2017 loss of life of 75-year-old affected person Charlene Murphey. Murphey was prescribed Versed, a sedative, however Vaught inadvertently gave her a deadly dose of vecuronium, a robust paralyzer.
Charlene Murphey’s son, Michael Murphey, testified at Friday’s sentencing listening to that his household stays devastated by the sudden loss of life of their matriarch. She was “a really forgiving individual” who wouldn’t need Vaught to serve any jail time, he mentioned, however his widower father needed Vaught to obtain “the utmost sentence.”
“My dad suffers daily from this,” Michael Murphey mentioned. “He goes out to the graveyard three to 4 instances every week and simply sits on the market and cries.”
Vaught’s case stands out as a result of medical errors ― even lethal ones ― are usually inside the purview of state medical boards and lawsuits are virtually by no means prosecuted in felony courtroom.
The Davidson County district lawyer’s workplace, which didn’t advocate for any explicit sentence or oppose probation, has described Vaught’s case as an indictment of 1 careless nurse, not your complete nursing occupation. Prosecutors argued in trial that Vaught neglected a number of warning indicators when she grabbed the mistaken drug, together with failing to note Versed is a liquid and vecuronium is a powder.
Vaught admitted her error after the mix-up was found, and her protection largely centered on arguments that an sincere mistake mustn’t represent against the law.
Throughout the listening to on Friday, Vaught mentioned she was perpetually modified by Murphey’s loss of life and was “open and sincere” about her error in an effort to forestall future errors by different nurses. Vaught additionally mentioned there was no public curiosity in sentencing her to jail as a result of she couldn’t probably re-offend after her nursing license was revoked.
“I’ve misplaced way over simply my nursing license and my profession. I’ll by no means be the identical individual,” Vaught mentioned, her voice quivering as she started to cry. “When Ms. Murphey died, part of me died along with her.”
At one level throughout her assertion, Vaught turned to face Murphey’s household, apologizing for each the deadly error and the way the general public marketing campaign in opposition to her prosecution might have compelled the household to relive their loss.
“You do not deserve this,” Vaught mentioned. “I hope it doesn’t come throughout as folks forgetting your beloved. … I feel we’re simply in the course of methods that do not perceive each other.”
Prosecutors additionally argued at trial that Vaught circumvented safeguards by switching the hospital’s computerized medicine cupboard into “override” mode, which made it potential to withdraw medicines not prescribed to Murphey, together with vecuronium. Different nurses and nursing specialists have instructed KHN that overrides are routinely utilized in many hospitals to entry medicine rapidly.
Theresa Collins, a journey nurse from Georgia who carefully adopted the trial, mentioned she is going to not use the function, even when it delays sufferers’ care, after prosecutors argued it proved Vaught’s recklessness.
“I am not going to override something past primary saline. I simply do not feel snug doing it anymore,” Collins mentioned. “Whenever you criminalize what well being care employees do, it adjustments the entire ballgame.”
Brett Kelman/Kaiser Well being Information
Vaught’s prosecution drew condemnation from nursing and medical organizations that mentioned the case’s harmful precedent would worsen the nursing scarcity and make nurses much less forthcoming about errors.
The case additionally spurred appreciable backlash on social media as nurses streamed the trial via Fb and rallied behind Vaught on TikTok. That outrage impressed Friday’s protest in Nashville, which drew supporters from so far as Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Nevada.
Amongst these protesters was David Peterson, a nurse who marched Thursday in Washington, D.C., to demand well being care reforms and safer nurse-patient staffing ratios, then drove via the night time to Nashville and slept in his automobile so he may protest Vaught’s sentencing. The occasions had been inherently intertwined, he mentioned.
“The issues being protested in Washington, practices in place due to poor staffing in hospitals, that is precisely what occurred to RaDonda. And it places each nurse in danger daily,” Peterson mentioned. “It is trigger and impact.”
Tina Vinsant, a Knoxville nurse and podcaster who organized the Nashville protest, mentioned the group had spoken with Tennessee lawmakers about laws to guard nurses from felony prosecution for medical errors and would pursue comparable payments “in each state.”
Vinsant mentioned they might pursue this marketing campaign regardless that Vaught was not despatched to jail.
“She should not have been charged within the first place,” Vinsant mentioned. “I would like her to not serve jail time, after all, however the sentence would not actually have an effect on the place we go from right here.”
Janis Peterson, a not too long ago retired ICU nurse from Massachusetts, mentioned she attended the protest after recognizing in Vaught’s case the all-too-familiar challenges from her personal nursing profession. Peterson’s concern was a standard chorus amongst nurses: “It may have been me.”
“And if it was me, and I appeared out that window and noticed 1,000 individuals who supported me, I would really feel higher,” she mentioned. “As a result of for each a type of 1,000, there are most likely 10 extra who assist her however could not come.”
Nashville Public Radio’s Blake Farmer contributed to this report.
KHN (Kaiser Well being Information) is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points. It’s an editorially unbiased working program of KFF (Kaiser Household Basis).