March 27, 2022

On March 25, 2022, a jury found a Tennessee nurse guilty of reckless homicide and impaired adult abuse for the death of a 75-year-old patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on December 27, 2017, after the nurse gave the patient the wrong medication despite warnings of the error.

The patient was supposed to be given Versed, a sedative, but was instead injected with vecuronium, which left her unable to breathe. The convicted former nurse, who admitted to the error shortly after the incident, stated after the verdict, “I am just relieved that this portion of the process is over. I hope that they [the patient’s family] are also just as relieved to be moving away from this process that has been held up in the legal system for four and a half years. I hope that they are able to find peace with the resolution of this process.” The defendant faces one to two years of incarceration for the conviction of criminally negligent homicide and three to six years incarceration for her conviction for gross negligence, which sentences may be concurrent or consecutive, when she is sentenced on May 13, 2022.

The prosecution argued that the defendant nurse consciously disregarded warnings and risks when she pulled the wrong medication from an electronic dispensing cabinet that required her to search for the drug by name: “This wasn’t an accident or mistake as it’s been claimed. There were multiple chances for RaDonda Vaught to just pay attention.”

The Tennessee Board of Nursing initially chose not to investigate the death but later revoked the nurse’s license in July 2021.

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The American Nurses Association issued the following statement on the date of the convictions: ““We are deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest reporting of mistakes.

Health care delivery is highly complex. It is inevitable that mistakes will happen, and systems will fail. It is completely unrealistic to think otherwise. The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent. There are more effective and just mechanisms to examine errors, establish system improvements and take corrective action. The non-intentional acts of Individual nurses like RaDonda Vaught should not be criminalized to ensure patient safety.

The nursing profession is already extremely short-staffed, strained and facing immense pressure – an unfortunate multi-year trend that was further exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. This ruling will have a long-lasting negative impact on the profession.

Like many nurses who have been monitoring this case closely, we were hopeful for a different outcome. It is a sad day for all of those who are involved, and the families impacted by this tragedy.”

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If you or a loved one suffered serious harm (or worse) as a result of being given the wrong medication in Tennessee or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medication error medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a wrong medication medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your U.S. state who may assist you.

Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.