In Midland, Texas, 6 nurses who contracted with Midland County Detention Center were criminally indicted recently for manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide and tampering with a governmental record allegedly failing to keep proper records and possible false charting. There is not much information in the media to glean except that it involved nebulizer treatments. There is no mention of the medication in the nebulizer treatments.
This is very concerning that nurses are being indicted criminally. They may have made a mistake. Does that rise to the level of criminality?
I believe that it may be malpractice, if proven, but should nurses be charged criminally for making a mistake?
I have discussed and written on this matter previously regarding RaDonda Vaught. As you may recall, she is the Vanderbilt Healthcare System nurse who gave a patient Vecuronium rather than Versed for a patient undergoing radiologic imaging. The patient became paralyzed including her respiratory muscles and she died.
The Tennessee Nursing Board originally chose not to file disciplinary action against Ms. Vaught. However, when criminal charges were filed against Ms. Vaught, the Tennessee Board of Nursing chose to reconsider and then did file charges against her.
Now, Ms. Vaught is facing disciplinary action against her license which could lead to the revocation of her license. She wants to fight the criminal charges and the Nursing Board matter.
Unfortunately, when these things happen, the nursing board matter often is addressed sooner than the criminal matter.
Ms. Vaught’s attorney argued to the Board that its matter should be stayed until resolution of the criminal matter. The Board did not agree.
Originally, her Nursing Board Hearing was scheduled for May 20, 2020. Ms. Vaught’s criminal trial was scheduled to begin July 13, 2020. However, I believe, with COVID, all of these things have been continued as my reference was pre-COVID.
According to the Fifth Amendment, every American citizen has a right to protect themself against self-incrimination. However, Ms. Vaught does not feel she can successfully defend her nursing license unless she is allowed to testify. Unfortunately, her criminal attorney will not allow her to testify as the attorney has recommended that she plead the protection of the Fifth Amendment.
Because it is an administrative agency, the Nursing Board can determine whatever weight or inferences to a nurse pleading the Fifth Amendment. I believe that when someone pleads the 5th, it should not be used against them.
Ms. Vaught’s attorney is appealing the decision to require her to proceed in the Nursing Board matter prior to her criminal trial but I do not believe there has been a ruling yet.
I can understand why the nursing board would require a nurse to resolve their nursing board matter as soon as possible because when a nurse with a serious allegation is pending, there is concern for the safety of the public.
In some states, the board will request that you agree to a voluntary suspension of your license while your criminal matter is proceeding. This is a fair resolution because most likely, a nurse will not be working with a criminal matter pending and a complaint against the nurse’s license pending. The worst thing about this is that even if the criminal matter is dismissed or you get a not guilty verdict, the nursing board can still determine the case on its merit.