A former ICU nurse found guilty of the accidental death of a 75-year-old patient she mistakenly gave the wrong drug to has spoken out about her regret over the “heart-wrenching” case.
RaDonda Vaught was convicted of gross neglect of an impaired adult, but on a count of reckless homicide a Tennessee jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.
She had faced a prison sentence but a judge ruled earlier this month that she should be sentenced three years of probation instead.
“What did I just do to this patient?” Vaught, 38, told ABC News of giving patient Charlene Murphey a fatal dose of the wrong medicine as she waited for a scan at Vanderbilt Medical Center in 2017.
“If I didn’t kill her, what kind of quality of life is she going to have after this? What is her family going to experience?”
Investigators found that Vaught was supposed to have administered a sedative for the patient’s comfort, but instead she was accused of giving Murphey a different medication that causes paralysis.
Vaught, 38, said was “distracted” when she overrode a safety feature on the automated medication dispenser and admitted giving the wrong medication, but pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2019.
Prosecutors at trial called her an irresponsible nurse who had ignored her training.
“The moment you realise you make a mistake with a drug like that, and then you see this patient’s condition – it was immediately really bad,” she told the news outlet.
Following the death, Vaught was fired from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and stripped of her nursing licenses.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center also negotiated a settlement with Murphey’s family.
“It is heart-wrenching to know that Ms. Murphey and her family were so horrifically let down. That will overwhelm any good that I ever did in my career,” she added.
“They are the patient and the family that will live with me the most.”
Vaught’s lawyers argued during the trial that although she had been “distracted” the mistake was caused by “systemic errors” at the hospital’s pharmacy.
But neither the medical facility or any other individual has faced any charges over the death.
“I think the whole world feels like I was a scapegoat,” she said.
“There’s a fine line between blame and responsibility, and in health care, we don’t blame. I’m responsible for what I failed to do. Vanderbilt is responsible for what they failed to do.”
And she added: “I will never be the same person. It’s really hard to be happy about something without immediately feeling guilty.
“She could still be alive, with her family. Even with all the system errors, the nurse is the last to check.”