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Vanderbilt nurse accused of mistakingly giving wrong drug to patient going to trial

Posted at 3:38 PM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 19:33:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A nurse in Nashville made a mistake and is accused of killing a patient. She faces not civil, but criminal charges, and now that controversial case is set for trial.

There is no plea deal.

The case is on the radar of nearly every doctor and nurse in the country. The question is: can you be successfully prosecuted for making a medical mistake?

"This case is a tone setter. This could set the tone for more criminal prosecutions of medical mistakes," said malpractice attorney Clint Kelly, who is not involved in the case, but is familiar with the details.

Former Vanderbilt nurse Radonda Vaught has pleaded not guilty. Two years ago, prosecutors say Vaught meant to give a patient a sedative, but instead administered another drug that paralyzed and killed 75-year-old Charlene Murphey.

Vaught's accused of ignoring several safeguards including failing to read the name on the vial, which led to the wrong drug being given.

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"She knowingly overrode a safety protocol is the allegation so she consciously accepted the risk and assumed that risk knowing it could harm or kill somebody," said Kelly.

In his mind, this is civil medical malpractice. "That's clear. The question is: is it criminal behavior as well?"

The Davidson County District Attorney believes so. Vaught is charged with reckless homicide. At a hearing last week, the case -- to the surprise of many -- was set for trial.

Kelly believes the sides are too far apart for any talk of a plea deal. "One side believes I am helping people and simply made a mistake even if it is reckless and the other side is saying you were reckless and you killed somebody," said Kelly.

Kelly believes jurors often side with nurses knowing they are trying to help and not hurt someone -- though they may have made a mistake. But sources tell NewsChannel 5, when the D.A. presents all the evidence it will become more clear why he sought criminal charges in this case.

The trial is scheduled for July of next year.