No doubt you've seen the headlines about a former nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that was arrested and charged with reckless homicide and abuse in February for making a medical mistake that resulted in an elderly patient's death.
The nurse pleaded not guilty. The district attorney's decision to charge Vaught comes after both the Tennessee Department of Health and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services investigated the incident.
According to news reports, the nurse was trying to give the patient a dose of an anti-anxiety medication, midazolam (brand name Versed), before an imaging scan during a December 2017 hospital stay. Instead the nurse gave the patient vecuronium, a paralytic drug used during anesthesia that had the same first two letters. The patient died in an intensive care unit the following day.
The Nashville District Attorney's office told the Tennessean it made the decision to bring criminal charges against the nurse specifically because she administered the fatal medication after overriding the safety mechanism in the dispensing machine.
Criminal charges for a medical error are unusual, patient safety experts say. Some are voicing concern that the move sets a precedent that may actually make hospitals less safe by making people hesitant to report errors.
Medical errors are common. Some researchers estimate they're the third leading cause of death in the United States. And many in the patient safety community say they don't understand what prompted the DA's office to prosecute this case in particular.
The American Nurses Association issued a statement criticizing the charges, saying that "the criminalization of medical errors could have a chilling effect" on health care workers' willingness to report errors.
We want to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think? Does this make medicine safer or will it ultimately have a negative impact on health care workers' willingness to report errors? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and click here to read more information on the case.