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What did RaDonda Vaught do? former Tennessee nurse sentenced to three years probation

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RaDonda Vaught

Nicole Hester / Pool/The Tennessean via AP


RaDonda Vaught, a former Tennessee nurse, was sentenced on Friday to three years of supervised probation for making a fatal prescription error in 2017 that resulted in the death of one of her patients, Charlene Murphey.

Jennifer Smith, the judge, stated: “RaDonda Vaught had committed a “horrible, awful error,” and “the defendant has suffered the consequences.” All charges against Vaught could now be dismissed.”

RaDonda Vaught’s story became a lightning rod for health-care employees after a jury found her guilty of criminally negligent homicide and maltreatment of an incapacitated adult.

Nurses gathered outside the courthouse on Thursday to applaud the decision not to sentence Vaught to prison.

According to David, a Georgia nurse, the verdict was possibly the best conclusion from a worst-case scenario. Everyone knows, however, that the judge should have said, “We’re sorry, RaDonda.”

Here’s your medical license back. Now learn from your mistakes and be a great nurse. We need nurses now more than ever.’ I mean, she’s not even guilty of anything that the rest of us are not capable of doing under the pressure we all face every day.”

RaDonda Vaught
(Stephanie Amador/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)AP

What was RaDonda Vaught’s crime?

In the death of Charlene Murphey, RaDonda Vaught was charged with reckless homicide and gross abuse of an incapable adult in 2019. Late in December 2017, he died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

With a brain injury, Murphey, 75, was brought to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. When the error occurred, her condition was improving, and she was about to be discharged from the hospital.


Murphey was given a sedative called Versed to help her rest before undergoing some sort of physical test.

In 2017, Gallatin resident Charlene Murphey was waiting for a routine scan at Vanderbilt Medical Center when she was killed by a deadly dose of the wrong drug. Vaught was intended to give Murphy a sedative for her comfort, but instead gave her a different medicine that induces paralysis, according to investigators.

Vaught claims she was “distracted” when she overrode a safety feature on the automatic drug dispenser, missing a number of warning signals in the period between when she grabbed the medication and when she handed it to the patient.

Murphey had passed away before the error was discovered

Vaught was described by prosecutors as a sloppy and uncaring nurse. She violated her training and lost patience during the trial.

The immovable reality of this case is that Charlene Murphey is dead because RaDonda Vaught could not be bothered to pay attention to what she was doing, according to Assistant District Attorney Chad Jackson.

Vaught’s attorney, Peter Strianse, said that his client made a “honest mistake”. She was made a “scapegoat” for systemic faults in the drug cabinets at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017.

Vaught informed the nursing board that she is aware that she is the reason this patient is no longer alive. “There will never be a day when I am not thinking about what I did.”

On social media, Vaught’s case has gotten a lot of attention

Following the verdict, the American Nurses Association issued a statement warning that the case could set a precedent that puts patients at risk if criminalizing medical errors has a “chilling impact on reporting and process improvement.”


Nurses and health care professionals attended a rally outside the courthouse before Vaught’s sentence. The crowd watched the hearing procedures online thereafter.

The court received several letters, calls, and voicemails in reference to Vaught’s case, according to Judge Jennifer Smith. But they cannot be considered in a sentence since it would be inappropriate.

Charlene’s daughter-in-laaw said “We just feel like my mother-in-law got lost in all of this”. Chandra Murphey said, adding that her family just wants peace and closure.

“We forgive her, and I don’t think jail time is an option for her,” Chandra Murphey said.

“I’ve lost a lot more than just my nursing license and job.” I’ll never be the same after that. “A part of me died with Mrs. Murphey when she died,” Vaught remarked.

Vaught ended her speech by pleading with the judge to be lenient in her sentence. She will never be able to work in the medical industry again.


Ankita Khanrah is a second-year student of the Master of Communication and Journalism (Integrated) programme at the School of Mass Communication, KIIT Deemed University, Bhubaneswar.

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