By Nick Beres
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse convicted of a crime for a mistake on the job is about to be sentenced — and much of the country will be watching.
Prosecutors charged Vaught and the jury returned a guilty verdict of criminally negligent homicide — a felony. The judge can sentence her to up to four years in prison, but probation seems like the most likely option.
Vaught admitted to accidentally giving the wrong drug to a patient named Charlene Murphey, who died.
At trial, prosecutors listed seventeen mistakes made by Vaught in the care of the patient.
“The homicide charge is that she deviated so far from the standard of care, so far below, grossly negligent leading to Charlene Murphy’s death,” said Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson.
Defense attorneys called what happened a horrible mistake, but not criminal.
“I believe there were systemic issues at Vanderbilt Medical Center that contributed to what happened,” said defense attorney Peter Strianse.
Cheryl Addison was involved in a similar case in Texas — one where she too was given the wrong drug and she nearly died. But no criminal charges were ever filed. To date one nurse had her license suspended but, that’s it.
Addison says Vaught should get credit for taking responsibility for what happened, calling her behavior in the aftermath honorable.
“Does she deserve jail time? I don’t think so. She lost her license and her career,” said Addison.
Nurses across the country will closely watch the sentencing hearing.
Malpractice attorney Clint Kelly was not part of the case, but works daily with those in the medical community. He says most nurses feel the conviction and potential jail time for a mistake on the job is unfair, especially considering the conditions they face on an almost daily basis.
“Nurses are overworked, underpaid and in this situation were set up to fail,” said Kelly.
Whatever happens at sentencing, jail time or not, Vaught has the conviction and that means her career as a nurse is now likely over.
Vaught has not yet said whether she will appeal her conviction.
This story was originally published May 12 by WTVF in Nashville, an E.W. Scripps Company.