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A nurse’s mistake killed a Tennessee patient. But is charging her with reckless homicide going too far?



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CIRCA via WZTV) — According to the British Medical Journal, at least 250,000 deaths occur each year because of medical error. But what happens to those who accidentally make the mistakes? That topic is being hotly debated in Tennessee right now.

Nurses from across the country are banning together to support a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse facing reckless homicide and patient abuse charges.

RaDonda Vaught is accused of mistakenly giving a patient the wrong medication resulting in death.

Chaz Authement is a nursing student who got into the profession for the same reason most nurses do.

“I just like helping people,” Authement said.

She works with patients daily and couldn’t believe when she heard a former Vanderbilt nurse is facing criminal charges for mistakenly giving patient Charlene Murphey the wrong medicine, killing her.

“Just to see a story like this blows my mind,” Authement said.

She started a support group for Vaught.

“We don’t think (it's) right," Authement said. "We understand that she did something wrong, and we do think there should be some kind of action, but this is just to an extreme."

She said criminally prosecuting the case is a slippery slope.

“A lot of us are second-guessing it like, do we really want to work somewhere where we make a mistake we’re gonna be prosecuted to this extreme level?” Authement said.

She says she’s also worried other nurses may try to cover their mistakes instead of reporting them, like Vaught did.

Many others in the medical field agree. More than 1,500 people have donated to a GoFundMe page for Vaught’s legal fees, generating more than $50,000 in just three days. The total is now more than $65,000.

However, for the loved ones of the patient, it’s still a difficult situation.

“It shouldn’t have happened. (Murphey) should still be here with us," friend Joanne Riker said. "If they’d given her the right medicine, she’d be here still today.”

One thing most people agree on is a simple mistake took one life and forever changed another.

Vaught will be in court Wednesday. Nurses from the area and perhaps outside the region plan to peacefully protest outside.


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