vox.com/science-and-health/2022/5/13/23066994/radonda-vaught-sentence-medication-error-patient-safety-lawsuit-vanderbilt-probation
RaDonda Vaught apologizes to the family of Charlene Murphey during her sentencing in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 13. Vaught was found guilty in March of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult after she accidentally administered the wrong medication. | Nicole Hester/The Tennessean via AP

RaDonda Vaught’s conviction set a dangerous precedent for patient safety, but is also driving a push for better protections for nurses.

RaDonda Vaught, whose criminal prosecution for a fatal medical error made her case a flashpoint in national conversations about nursing shortages and patient safety, was sentenced on Friday to three years of probation in a Nashville criminal court. After the probationary period, she could ultimately have her conviction dismissed.

Vaught had been convicted of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult, which together carried a potential prison sentence of up to eight years.

In late 2017, Vaught, a nurse, mistakenly administered the wrong medication to patient Charlene Murphey while Murphey awaited a radiologic study at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Murphey died as a consequence of the error, and an investigation later found that multiple patient safeguards that should have existed in the hospital had been absent or failing at the time of the event and were partially responsible for her death.

Vaught’s errors included removing the wrong medication from one of the hospital’s electronic prescribing cabinets, overlooking several warnings on the medication vial, and not monitoring Murphey’s vital signs after administering the medication.

What made Vaught’s case notable was that she was prosecuted in criminal court, a decision made by the Nashville district attorney. Most nursing malpractice cases are disciplined through state nursing boards, which can revoke professional licenses. If legal action is taken in...

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