A nurse in Nashville, Tennessee has pled not guilty to charges of reckless homicide after she gave a patient the wrong medication.

The nurse worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center at the time the incident occurred. Nurses across the nation have rallied around RaDonda Vaught, stating that the complete facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are not known at this time. It was also noted that criminalizing medical errors could have a “chilling effect on reporting and process involvement.” Vaught was indicted in early February and charged with reckless homicide and impaired elder abuse. The patient was a 75-year-old woman, Charlene Murphey, who was admitted in 2017 for a subdural hematoma.

medication error - wrongful death

Drug Mix-Up Responsible for Patient’s Death

A full-body scan was ordered for Murphey, along with the drug Versed to help Murphey deal with her claustrophobia. Vaught typed “VE” into the automated medication dispensing system, and the first drug which appeared was Vecuronium, a neuromuscular blocker, and she erroneously selected this medication. This was not the medication that had been ordered for the patient. After being given the Vecuronium, Murphey became unconscious, and medical personnel were unable to revive her. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center determined that Vaught was to blame for the drug mix-up, claiming she bypassed safety mechanisms which had been put into place to prevent this type of drug error.

Did the Hospital Sacrifice an Employee to Retain the Ability to Participate in Federal Health Programs?

VUMC notified Murphey’s family regarding the error and while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened VUMC with taking away the hospital’s ability to participate in federal health programs, following an investigation and the submission of a Corrective Action Plan, the CMS rescinded the threat. Prosecutors believe Vaught to be liable for Murphey’s death because she overrode the safeguards of the prescription medication dispensing system. VUMC has stated that, because the issue is now a criminal matter, the hospital will not comment further.

Most Common Types of Preventable Medical Errors

An online funding page has been created by Vaught, and she already has raised more than $76,000 towards her legal expenses. A Johns Hopkins study found that medical errors kill more than a quarter of a million people annually, making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the U.S., following cancer and heart disease. Patients who place their trust in their doctors, their nurses, and their hospitals can find these statistics more than frightening. Obviously, mistakes can happen anywhere, at any time; however, the three most common types of preventable medical errors include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and medication errors. An incorrect diagnosis may result in unnecessary treatment or even harmful treatment. A misdiagnosis also ensures that the patient’s actual illness will not be treated in a timely manner.

Delayed Diagnoses and Other Medical Errors

A delayed diagnosis can be just as harmful as a misdiagnosis. Patients who do not receive a timely diagnosis experience a delay in getting the treatment they need, allowing their diseases or illnesses to progress. Medical errors, whether a wrong medication or an incorrect dosage, can have extremely serious consequences. Other types of medical errors include infections (usually from a hospital stay or medical procedure) and implantation of a defective medical device. Many patients have a fear of an operation being performed on the wrong body part—as in an amputation of the wrong limb.

Preventing wrong-site surgery was one of the main safety goals of the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organization. Newer procedures require such guidelines as marking the surgical site, involving the patient in the marking process, and having all members of the surgical team double-check the information once the patient is in the operating room. Despite these precautions, according to Medscape, wrong-site surgeries still occur about 40 times per week, nationwide.

Contact Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Talk To A Lawyer The medical malpractice attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 100 years of experience representing injured patients and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties, as well as in the State of New Jersey. Contact us today toll-free at 1-855-633-6251 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.