Mar 23, 2022 - News

RaDonda Vaught trial begins

RaDonda Vaught in court

RaDonda Vaught in court. Photo: Stephanie Amador/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of RaDonda Vaught, a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse charged with reckless homicide after giving the wrong medication to a patient who died.

  • Vaught accidentally gave Charlene Murphey the paralyzing agent vecuronium in 2017 instead of the sedative Versed.

Why it matters: The case has drawn national attention, driven largely by the medical community. Nurses who support Vaught worry the case might encourage more prosecutors to punish medical errors with criminal charges.

Driving the news: During opening arguments, prosecutor Debbie Housel told jurors that Vaught, 38, "recklessly ignored everything that she learned in school" by overriding warnings, missing red flags and administering the wrong drug.

  • Defense attorney Peter Strianse acknowledged the "tragic mistake." But he said a "systemic problem" at VUMC created conditions that contributed to the mix-up.

What they're saying: "In response to a story like this one, there are two kinds of nurses," St. Louis nurse Janie Harvey Garner told Kaiser Health News. "You have the nurses who assume they would never make a mistake like that, and usually it's because they don't realize they could. And the second kind are the ones who know this could happen, any day, no matter how careful they are."

  • "This could be me. I could be RaDonda."

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