Nursing World Rocked by Conviction of Tennessee Nurse RaDonda Vaught
The nursing world has been rocked with the guilty verdict handed down on Friday by a Tennessee jury for former nurse RaDonda Vaught for criminally negligent homicide, due to a medication error that contributed to the death of her 75-year-old patient. This unprecedented effort to criminally punish a nurse for a medication error goes against every accepted tenet for a just and effective means of responding to, and the appropriate process for the mitigation of, preventable medical errors, particularly for those, as this case does, that involve complex systems of care. This verdict by an overzealous and ignorant DA has shocked nurses from coast to coast, who are posting memes that say “I am RaDonda Vaught,” as so many know that given the systems they are working in -- dysfunctional, profit-focused systems -- that every day place them at the spear point of a similar tragic outcome. Nurses in Massachusetts may well remember the 1994 case at the Dana Farber Cancer Center, when 13 nurses were sanctioned by the state for their role in administering a lethal dose of medication to Betsy Lehman, a Boston Globe Reporter. Those nurses were later exonerated as it was shown that it was the system that was at fault. In fact, that case lead to major changes in how medical errors in Massachusetts and across the nation were addressed – as efforts were made to look at the systems involved as opposed to focusing on the individual practitioner.
Below is a video of powerful interview with Ms. Vaught, where she takes full responsibility for her role in this patient’s death, but also highlights the chilling impact this verdict will have on all nurses going forward, who may be reluctant to report a mistake for fear of unwarranted prosecution, or worse still, who may not stay in a profession under a punitive system with so much risk.