Nurse Stands Trial for Deadly Medical Error—
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
The NPR report describes Vaught's prosecution as a "rare example of a healthcare worker facing years in prison for a medical error," as such errors are typically handled by licensing boards and civil courts. It also states that the trial will be watched closely by nurses across the U.S., who are worried that a conviction may set a precedent -- particularly at a time when nurses are exhausted and demoralized, which can make them more prone to error.
Nurses have previously rallied in support of Vaught. According to the Tennessean, about a dozen supporters -- some in scrubs -- gathered in the courtroom during opening arguments on Tuesday.
— Nurses worry conviction could set precedent as profession struggles with burnout, exhaustion
Doctors are required to carry medical malpractice insurance, while nurses are not. It is up to the employer and personal choice. Some employers have a policy that covers it's staff but if you have not read the policy, it's limits, and exclusions (the fine print) you are doing an injustice to yourself. This however is a different type of claim. The plaintiffs are not going for monetary pay back, but a wrongful death conviction with jail time.
I really don't know how I feel about this negligence as it is human error; but it caused the patient to die. From what I get from the article, the family settled out of court and part of the agreement was to no longer discuss it.
Vaught was fired from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in early January 2018, according to the CMS investigation. The Tennessee Board of Nursing revoked her license in July 2021, according to a timeline by the Tennessean. Both her disciplinary hearing and the trial had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2018, the hospital negotiated an out-of-court settlement with Murphey's family that required them not to speak publicly about the death or the error, the Tennessean reported. However, the hospital didn't report the error to state or federal officials or to the Joint Commission at that time.
It wasn't until October 2018 when an anonymous tipster reported the error and death to state and federal health officials, the Tennessean reported.
If convicted, Vaught faces up to 12 years in prison -- though Murphey's family said she would forgive the nurse if she were alive today, according to the Tennessean.
I feel like if Vaught is convicted, this will change nursing forever as we know it today. It is a really hard call. If it was your family you don't know how you would feel or what retaliation or punishment you would want for the one that made the gross error.
All occupations that work with the public (particularly) first responders have this risk on a daily basis. If the family isn't pushing it, then why is the state? I'll be keeping an eye out on this one. I suggest any healthcare worker particularly nurses get a medical malpractice policy. They are generally not expensive and if you choose not to, make sure you ask your employer for their blanket employee coverage. You are your only first line of defense and we all know that people die at the hand of medicine every day.