Mar 28, 2022 - News

RaDonda Vaught conviction could set new precedent for nurses

RaDonda Vaught addresses the media following last week's verdict.
RaDonda Vaught addresses the media following last week's verdict. Photo: Nicole Hester/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

The conviction of former nurse RaDonda Vaught continues to reverberate after the potential precedent-setting nature of criminalizing medical mistakes.

Why it matters: The health care industry fuels Nashville's economy. The nursing profession is especially prominent here because of our excellent hospital systems and nursing colleges.

Catch up fast: Vaught was found guilty by a jury Friday of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult.

  • Prosecution witnesses described how Vaught administered the drug vecuronium instead of Versed to patient Charlene Murphey, leading to her 2017 death at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • Critics argue Vaught's prosecution could set a slippery slope for the nursing profession and criminalize errors typically litigated in civil court.

What they're saying: District Attorney Glenn Funk rebuffed that criticism in prepared remarks following the verdict, arguing the case was not an indictment against nurses or the medical profession.

  • "This case was, and always has been, about the gross neglect by RaDonda Vaught that caused the death of Charlene Murphey," Funk said. "This was not a 'singular' or 'momentary' mistake."

The other side: The American Nurses Association (ANA) said through a spokesperson's statement that it is "deeply distressed" by the verdict and argued it is "completely unrealistic" to think mistakes won't occur during health care delivery.

  • "The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent," the ANA said. "There are more effective and just mechanisms to examine errors, establish system improvements and take corrective action."
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