RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been found guilty of the 2017 death of Charlene Murphey. A Davidson County jury charged Vaught with criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult. Vaught, 38, erroneously injected 75-year-old Murphey with vecuronium instead of Versed, leading to her death, USA Today reports.
Versed is a sedative, but vecuronium is a paralyzing drug that left Murphey unable to breathe, causing her death on December 27, 2017. A 12-person jury, comprising veteran nurses and medical experts, deliberated for over four hours before eventually finding Vaught guilty on two charges.
Assistant District Attorney Brittani Flatt of Nashville said Vaught may not have set out to kill Murphey, but she made a choice that caused her death. She said Vaught used an electronic dispensing cabinet to search for the lethal injection she administered on Murphey and had time to determine that it was actually the wrong drug.
“She admitted she had given Versed prior, but never vecuronium,” said Donna Jones, a legal nursing consultant with 47 years of experience as a nurse. “She admitted she was distracted. She admitted she shouldn’t have been distracted by something other than the medication. She admitted she shouldn’t have overridden the medication.”
Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson also made the same point, saying Vaught did make a “mistake as it’s been claimed” since she could have paid ample attention to what she was doing if she wanted to. To ameliorate her sentence, which is set for May 13, Vaught’s attorney Peter Strianse said his client has demonstrated remorse and pain for the victim’s family since the unfortunate incident happened.
“What struck me most about RaDonda Vaught’s interviews was not her honest recitation of the facts … but her genuine worry and concern about Charlene Murphey and concern for her family,” Peter Strianse said. “She was not thinking about herself.”
In July 2021, the Tennessee Board of Nursing revoked Vaught’s nursing license. She had earlier been sacked by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, even though they are not investigating the incident against the former nurse.
The American Nurses Association which had representatives in court to watch the proceeding said they were disappointed that Vaught was found guilty by the jury. They said anyone could make a mistake, and that crucifying Vaught could stop nurses from reporting errors they commit, thereby setting a terrible precedent. Vaught also condemned the charges, saying they will negatively impact the healthcare sector.