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Nurse receives sentence for giving fatal dose of wrong medicine
The 75-year-old woman was given the wrong medicine.
Eduardo Gaskell
05.17.22

Former Tennessee nurse RaDonda Vaught was found guilty on March 25 of two charges.

That’s after a medication error which contributed to the passing of 75-year-old Charlene Murphey.

It was a situation no nurse, and no family is ever prepared for.

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Murphey was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with bleeding in her brain

As Murphey was set to undergo a PET scan, she was prescribed Versed.

It’s a medication meant to relieve anxiety since she was claustrophobic and afraid to go into the tube-like machine.

Vaught instead injected her instead with vecuronium.

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It’s a paralyzing medicine given only to intubated patients, because it leaves a person unable to breathe.

The former nurse did admit what happened to hospital staff at the time of the event, according to her attorney during the trial’s opening statements.

Vaught did what she was supposed to.

She confessed and reported her mistake.

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She did so in the hopes of helping others avoid it in the future.

The situation sparked a debate especially among members of the medical community and nurses nationwide.

Janie Harvey Garner, founder of Show Me Your Stethoscope, an advocacy and support group for nurses was on the nurse’s side.

Cases such as these were always handled with administrative discipline.

And a nurse’s license would usually be suspended or revoked, Garner noted. It is “unheard of” for a nurse’s unintentional mistake to be prosecuted as a crime, she shared.

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Vaught’s case certainly did.

“Nurses will no longer admit medical mistakes if they can go to prison… this is going to make it really less safe for patients in the hospital.”

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But there was hope for Vaught.

The former nurse attended another hearing where she received a diverted sentence.

If Vaught meets the terms of her probation, her charges can be cleared from her record.

Visibly shaken with tears on her face, the hearing proceeds with the victim’s family in attendance.

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A discussion over the laws took up the majority of the morning’s session

. It was Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith who decided Vaught was eligible for the program.

On both counts.

“This was a terrible, terrible mistake,” Smith said. “And there have been consequences to the defendant.”

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Vaught was visibly shaking as Smith read out the sentence.

And outside across the street, cheers went up from the former nurse’s supporters.

They are health care professionals who gathered in support of their fellow nurse.

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Murphey’s family listened as Vaught spoke.

“Saying I’m sorry doesn’t seem like enough but you deserve to hear that and know that I am very sorry for what happened,” Vaught told them.

The family in turn spoke saying that they forgive Vaught. And that their family member would want her forgiven as well.

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By Eduardo Gaskell
hi@sbly.com
Eduardo Gaskell is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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