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Nurse Charged With Homicide

Nurses   (46,485 Views 845 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

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Nurse Charged With Homicide

  1. 1. Should Radonda Vaught, the nurse who gave a lethal dose of Vecuronium to patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, be charged with reckless homicide?

    • She should not have been charged
      376
    • She deserved to be charged
      117

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Medical errors (however caused) have been shown to result in large numbers of patient deaths annually.  Many patients are harmed by medical errors annually.  It has also been shown that patients frequently experience errors in care.  Many errors in care go unreported, even in spite of a non-punitive "just culture."  Medical errors that result in patient deaths are not currently reported on patients death certificates.

I conclude that the current voluntary system of reporting errors in care is insufficient to protect patients and that much greater regulatory oversight of health care facilities and of health care practitioners is necessary.  

The argument has been made that if licensed health care practitioners face criminal charges for their actions this will result in reduced voluntary reporting of errors.  I consider this more an excuse than a valid reason.  It appears that new methods need to be devised to ensure that licensed health care professionals report their errors in care.  In my opinion much greater oversight of licensed health care professionals' practice is needed by independent overseers, not by the health care industry.  

Licensed health care professionals' have a professional and ethical duty to their patients, patients' family members, the public, and to the profession to report errors in care timely especially so that timely action can be taken by health care professionals to reduce the harm/injury to the patients affected; for example by close monitoring of the patient, administration of a reversal agent or other medication or other agent or transfer of the patient to the ICU, etc.  When licensed health care professionals choose dishonestly not to report errors in care, there is no possibility to remediate the harm/injury that a patient may experience from the error/s.

Some errors in care are due to recklessness on the part of individual licensed health care professionals, and sometimes this can amount to criminal behavior.  While we practice as part of a health care system we are always individually responsible for our own safe practice.  Also, not all errors in care are due to "systems" errors; some are due to individual practitioner errors.  Our number one priority should be to protect patients, not to protect licensed health care professionals who practice unsafely or to protect the health care industry.  We have Standards of Care and we are taught medication administration safety procedures (Five/Six or more Rights) in nursing school; this is drilled into us in nursing school.  Health care is a complex industry but Standards of Care exist for a good reason, for the protection of our patients.

Other professional occupations that have safety responsibilities to the general public are held to industry Standards of Practice and the licensed professionals in these occupations can be charged with criminal negligence when their actions demonstrate that they have violated safety standards and members of the public are harmed or killed as a result.  Licensed health care professionals whose licensed professional practice is below the Standard of Care and results in harm/death to patients should not be treated differently or be exempt from criminal charges when after an appropriate investigation it is determined that criminal charges are appropriate. 

 

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I admit to not reading all 57 pages on this thread, so maybe somebody has addressed this well.  Why should this nurse not be charged with negligent homicide?  Notice I used the word "charged" rather than convicted.  The entire point of a trial is to see whether a person meets the legal standard for the definition of a crime.  It creates a controlled environment in which all of the evidence can be presented and evaluated.

In my mind, this hinges on two central questions-

1- Should a nurse EVER be held to a criminal standard for causing unintentional harm?

2- Is this a case worthy of a trial to investigate whether that standard is met?

To me the answer to #1 is a clear yes.  I believe this to be the case for any profession.  If a person is responsible for the safety of others in any field, there is a point at which there lack of adherence to standards is a crime.  This applies to nurses, doctors, electricians, raft guides, chefs.....  

To answer #2, I looked up the definition of negligent homicide.  In an earlier post I said I was on the fence.  After reading these definitions, it seems clear to me that this nurse may well have met the standard to be charged.  I, as well as everybody on this forum, don't know whether the evidence will support this charge.  


What are types of negligent homicide?Professional negligence – Whenever the conduct of a professional while in the process or as a result of rendering services create circumstance that lead to the death of another individual, then that professional has committed negligent homicide.  A doctor, for example, may fail to follow standards of hygiene expected by society and his professional peers.  When this breech of professional conduct causes a deadly infection in a patient, it can be argued that the doctor’s negligence in providing sanitary conditions creates circumstances that lead to the patient’s death.  The doctor lacks malice and intent but is otherwise responsible due to his negligence.

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Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

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23 minutes ago, MrMidazolam said:

Yeah, the problem was, there were no consequences for Vaught. The BON was too busy suspending the licenses of nurses behind on their student loans to worry about the utter carelessness and negligence of Ms Vaught. 

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On 2/22/2019 at 8:19 AM, hherrn said:

I admit to not reading all 57 pages on this thread, so maybe somebody has addressed this well.  Why should this nurse not be charged with negligent homicide?  Notice I used the word "charged" rather than convicted.  The entire point of a trial is to see whether a person meets the legal standard for the definition of a crime.  It creates a controlled environment in which all of the evidence can be presented and evaluated.

In my mind, this hinges on two central questions-

1- Should a nurse EVER be held to a criminal standard for causing unintentional harm?

2- Is this a case worthy of a trial to investigate whether that standard is met?

To me the answer to #1 is a clear yes.  I believe this to be the case for any profession.  If a person is responsible for the safety of others in any field, there is a point at which there lack of adherence to standards is a crime.  This applies to nurses, doctors, electricians, raft guides, chefs.....  

To answer #2, I looked up the definition of negligent homicide.  In an earlier post I said I was on the fence.  After reading these definitions, it seems clear to me that this nurse may well have met the standard to be charged.  I, as well as everybody on this forum, don't know whether the evidence will support this charge.  


What are types of negligent homicide?Professional negligence – Whenever the conduct of a professional while in the process or as a result of rendering services create circumstance that lead to the death of another individual, then that professional has committed negligent homicide.  A doctor, for example, may fail to follow standards of hygiene expected by society and his professional peers.  When this breech of professional conduct causes a deadly infection in a patient, it can be argued that the doctor’s negligence in providing sanitary conditions creates circumstances that lead to the patient’s death.  The doctor lacks malice and intent but is otherwise responsible due to his negligence.

To bad doctors aren't held to the same. They just have their malpractice insurance pay off the victim. As a doc you would have to walk into a room and announce you're killing the patient before charges were levied. 

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hppygr8ful has 15 years experience and works as a RN - Adolescent Psych.

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7 hours ago, NorthTXxNurse said:

To bad doctors aren't held to the same. They just have their malpractice insurance pay off the victim. As a doc you would have to walk into a room and announce you're killing the patient before charges were levied. 

Not necessarily true. Dr.'s do go to prison for Criminal negligence if found guilty in court. I know of at least 1 who is currently in prison. But you make a good point about malpractice insurance. If the nurse in question had her own malpractice insurance she wouldn't have had to crowd fund for her legal fees. 

I have carried a million dollar rider for malpractice since I was in nursing school. It's really not that expensive and well worth it. I know if something occurs My house and every other thing I have is protected and I'll get top legal representation.

Hppy

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Check your policy to see if it covers criminal matters.  Medical malpractice cases are always filed and tried in civil court, not criminal court, which is why this case is so sensational. I'm sure that all medical malpractice policies will cover you and pay attorney fees in medical malpractice cases, but I'm not sure those policies do the same if you are charged with a crime.

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After seeing experiences like these, I do think about what actions could jeopardize my own license. It makes me sad to think about what nurses face when caring for their patients. 

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26 minutes ago, studentnurseASN said:

It makes me sad to think about what nurses face when caring for their patients. 

If you do your job right there is nothing to be sad about. If you practice well below the standards to which we are bound then yes, you will be crying into your beer...a lot.

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Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD has 30 years experience and works as a Nurse Attorney.

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35 minutes ago, jkmjones said:

Check your policy to see if it covers criminal matters.  Medical malpractice cases are always filed and tried in civil court, not criminal court, which is why this case is so sensational. I'm sure that all medical malpractice policies will cover you and pay attorney fees in medical malpractice cases, but I'm not sure those policies do the same if you are charged with a crime.

I am not aware of any insurance policy that covers criminal activity.  It is against public policy.  That is what makes these cases so difficult for nurses. Many nurses feel like they have to settle and admit something they did not do because they cannot afford the legal fees.

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On 2/5/2019 at 8:53 PM, Emergent said:

I have a feeling that someone with clout, associated with the hospital,  is behind this. Someone who perhaps plays golf with the chief prosecutor?

How convenient,  to divert attention away from the hospital's deficiencies by vilifying this unfortunate woman.  

 

On 2/5/2019 at 9:46 PM, Nurse Beth said:

Red or white? 😂

Exactly!

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33 minutes ago, Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD said:

I am not aware of any insurance policy that covers criminal activity.  It is against public policy.  That is what makes these cases so difficult for nurses. Many nurses feel like they have to settle and admit something they did not do because they cannot afford the legal fees.

I heard from a Nurse Lawyer in Shift Report with Janie Garner-SMYS that you have to buy additional coverage specific to criminal. Basic Malpractice doesn’t do a damn thing for you. 

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