A trial date has been set for a former Vanderbilt nurse charged with felony abuse of an impaired adult and reckless homicide in the death of Charlene Murphey, 75, in 2017.
RaDonda Vaught, 37, will face a jury trial March 21, 2022.
Murphey was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Dec. 24, 2017, for a brain bleed, according to court documents. She was preparing for a PET scan on Dec. 26 and was prescribed Versed as a sedative since she was claustrophobic.
Vaught went to the automatic cabinet that released medications and realized that Murphey’s prescription had not been sent over. She typed in “ve” and selected the first medication that came up, which was vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report.
Vaught overrode the system and administered the medication to Murphey. She then left Murphey, according to court documents.
Murphey was found unresponsive 30 minutes later and required CPR and ventilation. She was placed on life support and died within 12 hours.
In her interview with the TBI, Vaught admitted to being distracted by talking to a new orientation employee.
Court documents list several warnings Vaught would have had to overlook, including several notations of “PARALYZING AGENT” in the medication system, the fact that Versed is a liquid and vecuronium bromide is a powder, and the red label on the vecuronium bromide cap that states “Paralyzing Agent.”
According to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report on the death and deficiencies at Vanderbilt, drugs such as vecuronium bromide paralyze muscles necessary for breathing.
Documents also say Vaught’s leaving the patient alone after administering the medication violated observation protocol. Murphey would have shown signs of respiratory failure and paralysis within minutes of administration.
The original death report made no mention of the mistake, instead saying that Murphey died from natural causes as a result of brain bleed for which she was in the hospital.
The CMS report also stated that the mix-up wasn’t reported to the state and the incorrect medication was not documented. The report pointed out several deficiencies at Vanderbilt, including not meeting the standards of patient care and procedures in unusual deaths.
Vaught was terminated in January 2018 for not validating the five rights of medication administration. The five rights are the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route and the right time.
In October 2018, Vaught was sent a letter from the Tennessee Department of Health after a complaint was filed against her. The Department of Health has the duty to investigate any allegations against nurses. She was told the matter did “not merit further action.”
In February 2019, Vaught was indicted by a grand jury and arrested. She was released on $50,000 bail.
In September 2019, the Department of Health reversed its decision and filed documents saying Vaught should face discipline for unprofessional conduct, failure to maintain an accurate patient record and abandoning a patient. The recommended consequences were monetary. However, the Tennessee Board of Nursing could decide to suspend or revoke Vaught’s license.
As of May 28, Vaught is still licensed as a nurse in Tennessee, according to the Department of Health website. Her letter of certification shows no record of discipline as of yet.