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Analysis

ANA Criticizes 'Criminalization of Medical Errors' as Vanderbilt Nurse Arraigned

By Steven Porter  
   February 20, 2019

The statement expresses support for handling medical errors with 'a full and confidential peer review process.'

As a former nurse for Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning for an arraignment on felony charges of reckless homicide and impaired adult abuse, the American Nurses Association raised concerns about the precedent the case could set.

Radonda Vaught administered a fatal dose of the wrong medication to a 75-year-old woman in late 2017, after overriding system safeguards, as The Tennessean's Brett Kelman reported, citing an investigation report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That incident, which VUMC reportedly failed to convey to the medical examiner, prompted CMS to threaten VUMC's Medicare status last November.

Vaught was indicted earlier this month, prompting the ANA to voice some concerns.

"Health care is highly complex and ever-changing resulting in a high risk and error-prone system," the ANA said in a statement Tuesday. "However, the criminalization of medical errors could have a chilling effect on reporting and process improvement."

Related: How DeKalb Medical Fixed Drug Safety Problems After Fatal Error

The statement, which specifically mentions Vaught's case, expresses support for handling medical errors with "a full and confidential peer review process."

The ANA also offered its condolences to the those who have suffered as a result of this error.

"This tragic incident should serve as reminder to all nurses, other health care professionals, and administrators that we must be constantly vigilant at the patient and system level," the ANA added.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The fatal error was made in December 2017, but it didn't become public until November 2018, with a CMS report.

Vanderbilt was threatened with a loss of its Medicare status over the incident.

The nurse was indicted this month and scheduled for an arraignment Wednesday.


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