Nurse accused of manslaughter in patient's death

  1. Nurse accused of manslaughter in patient's death


    A nurse at Cottage Hospital was arrested Wednesday night in connection with a botched medical procedure that resulted in the death of an 81-year-old Ventura man.

    Kevin Alan Rowland, 38, was booked on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the death of Kenneth Mattern, authorities said. At the time of his arrest, the nurse was in custody at County Jail on suspicion of grand theft of prescription drugs from the hospital.

    Mr. Mattern died on Christmas Eve, a day after his car was hit by a car driven by an 89-year-old man on Highway 101 near Haskell's Beach in Goleta. Mr. Mattern, who was heading to Pleasanton to spend Christmas with friends, was taken to Cottage Hospital, where he was treated for a broken left hand and chest trauma, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol.

    During treatment, Mr. Mattern was supposed to be given a liquid vitamin and mineral supplement by mouth, said Lt. Nick Katzenstein, spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department.

    Instead, while under Mr. Rowland's care, the medication was administered through a feeding tube inserted into one of Mr. Mattern's veins, according to the police department.

    An autopsy later revealed that Mr. Mattern died from an embolism in his lungs, not as a result of injuries suffered in the collision, said Lt. Katzenstein.

    Officials at Cottage determined that the death may have been caused by an error and alerted the coroner's office, who turned the investigation over to the Police Department.

    Friend and neighbor Barbara Wise described Mr. Mattern as a nice, healthy man who swam 45 minutes a day at the mobile home park where he lived.

    She remembered how he would sometimes call at 6 p.m. and tell her not to eat dessert because he was going to bring something over. Or, sometimes in the summer, he would bring watermelon over to share with her.

    "He was a very giving, intelligent man," she said.

    As part of the police investigation into the death, authorities learned that Cottage Hospital was already conducting an internal investigation of Mr. Rowland stemming from the disappearance of some narcotics that were under his control, Lt. Katzenstein said.

    Authorities arrested the nurse at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport on Dec. 28 as he was preparing to board a flight to his permanent home in Platte City, Mo., Lt. Katzenstein said.

    "We believe that he was using (the drugs) for his personal use," Lt. Katzenstein said. "We don't have evidence that he was under the influence of the drugs at the time he administered these drugs to the victim."

    Lt. Katzenstein said that Mr. Rowland may have been fired from Cottage Hospital prior to his arrest at the airport.

    Hospital officials did not comment on the suspect's work status, but Ron Werft, Cottage Health System president and CEO, said Wednesday the hospital is cooperating with the police in the investigation.

    "We at Cottage are all terribly devastated by this incident," he said. "We have and we continue to express our deepest sorrow to the family and loved ones of Mr. Mattern."

    Mr. Rowland was employed by Fastaff, a traveling nurse agency in Denver and worked at Cottage since October. Traveling nurse agencies contract with hospitals to provide nursing staff on a temporary basis. Traveling nurses typically work for a few months at one hospital and then move on to another assignment.

    Cottage, like many hospitals in California, relies on traveling nurses to help cope with the statewide nursing shortage.
  2. Visit fiestynurse profile page

    About fiestynurse

    Joined: Mar '01; Posts: 1,012; Likes: 36


  3. by   Squirrel
    Boy, this is very disturbing! I am not clear if the alleged drug use had something to do with the charge or if he would have been charged anyway.

    Does anybody remember a few years ago in Colorado there was a story about 2 nurses who were criminally charged with manslaughter after a baby died due to a med error? I do not know what the outcome was in that case.

    I hope this does not become a trend, as nurses have so much to worry about already (getting sued, getting abused by everybody, potential for diseases) on top of the fear of prison due to a med error.
  4. by   wildtime88
    Besides the alleged drug use.

    I wonder if this was packaged in a regular syringe and was added to an IV bag. Some hospital are pharmacies are still using this packaging system for liquid oral medications. I wonder if it was in the norm to make up your own IV bags here as well. Surely this guy checked the route in the order. We make up "yellow banana' bags all day long in the ER. The IV MVI sometimes comes out of a multi dose vial.

    This was pretty stupid if the guy gave this IV push through one of those off set liquid syringes. Even more stupid if he drew it up and then gave it.

    If he was acually high when he gave it, then he deserves to stand trial.

    Please keep us posted as more comes out on this.
    Last edit by wildtime88 on Jan 3, '02
  5. by   fiestynurse
    Yea, wildtime! Even though I don't like to see nurses get hit with criminal charges for med errors - this guy sounds like a real winner!
    All I can say is that Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was busy hiring this guy, at the same time that they were calling the Nursing School to say that they didn't feel "comfortable" having me in the hospital because I was a little too outspoken about important nursing issues. Atleast I wasn't busy taking drugs and killing people!!
    Last edit by fiestynurse on Jan 4, '02
  6. by   wildtime88

    You got a raw deal. But you are still a personal hero to me.
  7. by   P_RN
    Re: Colorado Nurses...bad judgement, bad handwriting, bad communication, language barrier.....

    Re: Vitamin embolism...I don't know what to say. I do know that we were NOT given the offset syringes for oral doses. MOST of the time (not all) these meds would come in unit dose aluminum or plastic cups.

    Banana bags came premixed from the pharmacy.

    I have heard of nurses attaching kangaroo bags to central lines so I wouldn't doubt that SOMEONE (not necessarily this nurse) could well have given MVI as a bolus.

  8. by   RNPD
    FYI-Fastaff is affiliated with US Nursing Corp in Denver, the agency that supplies scab nurses for beaucoup bucks during nursing strikes. Could it be that Fastaff is not properly screening the nurses they supply to unsuspecting hospitals? And wasn't Cottage Hospital recently having some labor disputes?
  9. by   wildtime88
    Do not even go there with you insinuations.

    This is an individual incident. I bet if I search hard enough I could find a past story or incident that envolved a union nurse. Would that mean that all union nurses were bad or that someone did not screen them properly. NO, it would not.

    If one nurse does something like this or even intentionally kills a patient does that make the whole profession bad. No, it does not.

    This nurse went through all the checks that any nurse would have to pass to work in the state. He could have just as easily have moved into the state and passed the same requirements.

    In fact, he could have come to your union facility and been hired as regular staff.

    lets just file your comments and attitude in the same respect as the ones posted here
    Last edit by wildtime88 on Jan 3, '02
  10. by   RNPD
    Sorry, wild, you need to educate yourself. It has been well documented that US Nursing does not properly screen candidates for strikes. In fact, the hospitals are told that up front. The agency pushes thru applications for licensure in the necessary states-sometimes within 2 to 3 days. It is impossible to properly screen a candidate in that time. The agency sends the nurses with a disclaimer that they make no guarantees that the nurses have the experience they state or even that they have no criminal records or unprofessional conduct outstanding. it is up to the hospital to verify licensure and whether or not the nurse has no outstanding legal difficulties, or problems with drug or alcohol addiction.

    You are always so eager to defend the scab agencies with quotes about union tactics-I will post some scab agency tactics when I have time to look them up. They are from investigations done by your beloved CNA and reported in "Revolution" magazine. I'm just too tired tonight to do it.

    BTW, I have nothing against legit travel agencies or travel RNs-only the scbs. Give me some time & even you may be surprised if you attempt to read what I post with an open mind.
  11. by   wildtime88
    I have a license in many states. I have yet to recieve a licence without the new state board of nursing verifying my existing licensing status with all the other states. This includes existing or previous complaints against it.

    As for travel nursing in general, I have a written verification as to all my previous experience. When it comes to actually hiring someone for a position, that is usually done through corresponding with human resources and simply a question of yes they worked here from such date to such date and a yes or no to a rehire question. And before you even go there, I have never worked a strike.

    I am not defending scabs as you call them. I am defending other nurses.
    Last edit by wildtime88 on Jan 4, '02
  12. by   RNPD
    "Union tactics such as work stoppages and slowdowns are hard to argue against. It does make others have to actually address the problems. If they were just some way that all the nurses actually involved could participate in this type of action without pitting nurse against nurse. "


    It would be vwery simple not to pit nurse against nurse if all the scabs stayed home so that the nurses involved in the action could have some leverage.


    "why not a national union that would encompass everyone?"


    There is a national union, UAN


    "Here in the U.S. nurses in management do not participate in unions. There has been legal rullings against it."


    In the US, NO ONE in management can legally participate in a union; it is not limited to nurses.

    I don't think unions are perfect-not even NYSNA (my union) or even the ANA as a professional organization. In fact, I used to have a lot of the same feelings you do about the ANA. But I do see change taking place-like all change, it may be slow. But I believe that the ANA has realized that they need to fight for thr bedside nurse, or someday they won't have any to fight for! I also think that if more people joined the ANA-it is the only national profesional association for nurses at this time-then the bedside nurse would have even more say in the decision making processes.

    It is obvious, wildtime that you see the problems associated with nursing today. You may evenb have some solutions. But the only way that nursing can stick together to fight at this time is thru one united organization-and to be recognized legally in this country, it has to bne a registered labor union. If all the nurses in the US supported the UAN with their voice as well as their opinions, it could work very well. But just as political parties need funds for run campaigns, so does the ANA abd the UAN need funds for their political lobbying. That's why they need dues. If you join, and don't like the direction the ANA is taking, then vote against; become active in order to promote your own views. But just like I tell those people who complain about the president-if you didn't vote, you have no right to an opinion.
  13. by   wildtime88
    It is more than obvious that you do not see the meaning behind my post at

    How can you battle against and exclude nurses one day and then expect them to side with you the next?

    How can you trash nurses one day then expect them to be your friend the next?

    How does this promote unity within the nursing profession as a whole?
  14. by   Teshiee
    Yes, I would have to say this is very disturbing and with one reader I agree stop accusing registries for this and assuming that people who work in travel agencies are bad, hell I know a couple or simple staff nursing who are just as capable of comitting bad errors in judgement. The bottom line is that this nurse made a very bad error that he will have to deal with. We don't have all the facts and until we do we shouldn't start this crap about screening nurses. I see the brn report and I knew a couple of nurses that may have started out okay and end up making very bad mistakes that jepordize a patients life. It is ultimately your responsibility when you carry that license. What you do is on you, alone. The five rights to medication administration is there for a reason.