RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse from Tennessee, was sentenced Friday to three years of supervised probation for making a fatal prescription error in 2017 that resulted in the death of one of her patients, Charlene Murphey.
Jennifer Smith, the judge, stated: “RaDonda Vaught had made a ‘horrible and appalling mistake’ and ‘the defendant has suffered the consequences.’ All charges against Vaught could now be dismissed.”
RaDonda Vaught’s story became a lightning rod for health care workers after a jury found her guilty of criminally negligent homicide and battering an incapacitated adult.
Nurses gathered outside the courthouse Thursday to applaud the decision not to sentence Vaught to prison.
According to David, a nurse from Georgia, the verdict was possibly the best conclusion from the worst case scenario. However, everyone knows that the judge should have said, “Sorry, RaDonda.”
“Here’s your medical license back. Now learn from your mistakes and be a great nurse. We need nurses now more than ever. I mean, she’s not even guilty of anything the rest of us aren’t capable of doing under the pressure we all face every day.”
What was RaDonda Vaught’s crime?
In the death of Charlene Murphey, RaDonda Vaught was charged with reckless homicide and felony abuse of an incapacitated adult in 2019. In late December 2017, she died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
With a brain injury, Murphey, 75, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. When the error occurred, her condition was improving and she was about to be discharged from the hospital.
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Murphey was given a sedative called Versed to help her rest before undergoing some sort of physical test.
In 2017, Gallatin resident Charlene Murphey was awaiting a routine exam at Vanderbilt Medical Center when she died from a deadly dose of the wrong drug. Vaught intended to give Murphy a sedative for her comfort, but instead she gave him a different drug that induces paralysis, according to investigators.
Vaught claims she was “distracted” when she overrode a safety feature on the automatic medication dispenser, missing a series of warning signs in the period between when she took the medication and when it was dispensed to the patient.
Murphey had passed away before the error was discovered.
Prosecutors described Vaught as a careless and uncaring nurse. She violated her training and lost her temper during the trial.
The stark reality of this case is that Charlene Murphey is dead because RaDonda Vaught didn’t bother to pay attention to what she was doing, according to Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson.
Vaught’s attorney, Peter Strianse, said his client made an “honest mistake.” He became a “scapegoat” for systemic failures in medicine cabinets at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017.
Vaught informed the board of nursing that she is aware that she is the reason this patient is no longer alive. “There will never be a day that I’m not thinking about what I did.”
On social media, Vaught’s case has drawn a lot of attention.
Following the verdict, the American Nurses Association released a statement warning that the case could set a precedent that puts patients at risk if the criminalization of medical errors has a “chilling impact on reporting and process improvement.”
Nurses and health professionals attended a rally outside the courthouse ahead of Vaught’s sentencing. The crowd watched the hearing proceedings online thereafter.
The court received several letters, calls and voicemails in reference to Vaught’s case, according to Judge Jennifer Smith. But they cannot be considered in a sentence as it would be inappropriate.
Charlene’s daughter-in-law said: “We feel like my mother-in-law missed out on all of this.” Chandra Murphey said, adding that her family just wants peace and closure.
“We forgive her, and I don’t think jail is an option for her,” Chandra Murphey said.
“I have lost much more than my nursing license and my job.” I will never be the same after that. “Part of me died with Mrs. Murphey when she died,” Vaught said.
Vaught ended his speech by begging the judge to be lenient with his sentence. He will never be able to work in the medical industry again.