Does Appearance of Conflict of Interest Exist For Vanderbilt?
With over 26,000 employees, Vanderbilt and its healthcare facilities are the largest employers in Nashville. Bringing a criminal prosecution against a VUMC nurse is not an everyday event.
A reader has offered the view that the appearance of a conflict of interest exists for the prosecution. Vanderbilt Adjunct Professor of Law Glenn Funk is also Nashville’s District Attorney General. He’s in charge of the office prosecuting Nurse Vaught while he also is on the factulty at Vanderbilt University Law School.
It’s only natural to wonder if Vanderbilt, an extremely influential political entity, gave a quiet “thumbs up” behind closed doors to proceed with a prosecution against one of its nurses. One can reasonably speculate that Vanderbilt’s legal, public affairs and crisis management team may have strategized that blaming the nurse will take the heat off the hospital.
Internet Healthcare Newsletter Raises Questions
However, some have said that the hospital’s actions in covering up what happened and failing to comply with state law should also be prosecuted. Beckers Hospital Review, a medical newsletter that is widely read by healthcare professionals, offered a recent Viewpoint.
The headline: If Vanderbilt nurse is arrested for homicide, leadership should be too.
The story featured the opinion of Dr. Zubin Damania, an internet medical personality known as ZDoggMD. Dr. Damania has a large internet following. He noted that the incident was “a tragedy on every level.”
“This is a shameful act to put this woman, who is already paying the price for her mistake, in prison,” Dr. Damania said in one of his video blog posts “If you are going to do that, you should put all of the administrators at Vanderbilt — who are overseeing her, who are overseeing safety, who are responsible for communicating with CMS and with the patient — they should all go to jail.”
Unlawful Vanderbilt Hospital Actions Appear Intentional
To go back a step, the CMS Statement of Deficiencies didn’t indicate that the nurse’s actions were intentional. However, the CMS report provides testimony that does indicate that hospital staff’s actions were intentional and unlawful. First, a physician appeared to knowingly mislead the Medical Examiner’s office about the death of Charlene Murphey. Second, the hospital administration intentionally withheld notifying the State Department of Health about the death of Charlene Murphey.
Prosecutorial Pass for The Institution But Not The Nurse?
Is the large institution being given a prosecutorial pass while the nurse bears all the prosecutorial zeal?
Case May Now Receive Extensive National Press Coverage
In any event, by prosecuting the nurse under criminal charges the case will receive extensive media coverage. There are roughly 2,400,000 nurses who work in hospitals. Their voices will be heard! Hopefully, hospital safety will be advanced.
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The idea of a hospital shifting the entire blame for a “never” event on a nurse or other employee of the hospital is not a new concept. It enables them to shift the focus of the public eye onto an individual left holding the bag for a cascade of poor decisions that start at the top. Most often, they are decisions that will save money for the hospital at the expense of patient safety. Low staffing that does not meet the hospital’s daily staffing requirement increases the need for staff to perform duties in areas in which they are not… Read more »
Vanderbilt UMC is NEVERland. They were investigated in 2019 for performing surgery on the wrong kidney. They were also cited by regulatory for botching a liver transplant surgery, wrong blood type.
Sounds like nurses are now finding out what it feels like to be a cop in todays society.
We go to school for years to learn how to save lives. Our actions should have consequences but this is excessive. As a cop, only training for a few months on how to profile your fellow citizens and to kill with impunity only to be held accountable less than one percent of the time are NOT the same.
Except no cops ever go to prison
Really? We’ve never had legal amnesty for our mistakes lol. Cops are just now feeling what WEVE been dealing with. Sorry. Not the same
The cop at least enjoys qualified immunity for numerous negative outcomes in their roles. Also their own departments investigate and often find them at no fault despite clear evidence to the contrary. While the public deals with the brunt of some very brutal treatment. Doesn’t matter if you were innocent. Doesn’t matter if they caused you harm. They walk away and never apologize in some of these incidents. Not one nurse I have worked with has ever gone and purposely exerted their authority to harm another person in the 30 years of my career. She should never have been prosecuted… Read more »
Shame on you…. I support cops
Wow that was really well out! I agree, nothing new
Excellent points—Vanderbilt’s administration didn’t take care of another death with complete transparency either. They seem to be problematic.
[…] Should Vanderbilt Leadership Be Held Responsible? Blaming nurses for med errors may seem obvious when one occurs, yet failing to look at underlying organizational issues keeps the cycle of mistakes going. […]
Thank you Beth! You are awesome and I appreciate the work you do.
[…] Hospital Watchdog noted, “It’s only natural to wonder if Vanderbilt, an extremely influential political […]
Thanks for this link and the Hospital Watchdog mention.
Any follow up with the recent verdict? My biggest question is how much drug was drawn up? How much Vecuronium did the patient get? How much of an effect could it have had? Given the cause of death was originally lied about how can a connection to a cause even be made? This case really pisses me off as a bad precedent.
Joe Akins, RN
This is where I feel Vadonda’s defense dropped the ball. Fingerprints prove the vial and syringes within evidence bag were handled by multitude of people, there was not an autopsy performed and expert testimony that cause of death is assumed, not definitive. That alone affects more than healthcare, but the entire legal system.
I totally agree with you Joe. This nurse is a scapegoat for a huge organization that doesn’t give a hoot about this nurses life and future. I was a nurse for 40 years from CNA, LPN, And then RN, and believe me, l have witnessed administration throwing nurses under the bus before, but never to this extreme. I am so happy to seeing nurses finally taking a stand and fighting back!!
There are many areas that the ball was dropped
1mg of Vec…1/10 the normal dosing….
That may be true for anesthesia for dosing,but I don’t think studies have been done establishing Vec as a pre meddrug for a PET scan and leaving pt unattended. Studies would be for anesthesia and paralytic needs.
Joe,the article read 1mg of Vec.And the pt was left unattended after premed for PET scan.
We will never know because of the big cover up. The big checkbook help hide the details
Here in 2022, many health care professionals hold Vanderbilt accountable no matter what they try to push off on one nurse. Good luck getting decent employees now.
The manner in which this tragic event was handled is a telescope view into the past, in a direction we have made agonizingly slow progress away from. Back in the day, if an error was discovered, the ensuing investigation would seek to identify the culprit individual, and apply punishment accordingly. More recent research has revealed that medical errors seldom occur in a vacuum. Systems supposedly designed to prevent errors conspire to permit them, because anything designed by the imperfect hand of man is, by definition, imperfect. Errors occur not through happenstance, but as a pure inevitability. And in this case,… Read more »
Peer review boards within system were developed and retraining was initiated, not only for the RN who made the mistake, but for all RNs….
We Nurses I can honestly say, have been thrown under the bus way too many times for Corprate liability. We stand United for this Nurse, and all Nurses who have worked in the Corporate Jungle.
Yes, everyone should answer to this! While Nurse Vaughn is the final step in the death of ms. Murphy, the nurse is the bottom of a long chain of healthcare providers that are responsible for Ms. Murthy’s care. Culture is what the nurse is part of that delivers care. Was it the culture of the nurses to routinely override medications in the pixis? Was it the culture to pull a nurse to all areas of the hospital in one shift? There so many questions! This looks very shady!
Agreed! The nationwide shortage has created a whole new “culture”…I was traveling in Memphis when this case came about, and it has seriously made me rethink staying on as a traveler.
it is a symptom of the moral decline both nationally and locally to see the “peons” take all the heat for acts that are part of a faulty process. This has happened with the January 6th investigation and is happening locally with this issue. Our nation is in decline into autocracy.
Couldn’t agree more.
Too many people get locked up.
There are medical errors daily
Surgeons anesthesiologist etc
I was operating room director for 50 years
Its not a perfect world in medicine
Put her on probation but acknowledge all the opportunities for error
A few years ago a nurse in California committed suicide because of her error
Stop the insanity and help us all slowdown and improve our systems
She lost her job and eventually her license – and lives with the loss of Charlene daily. She has more than paid for her error.
Agreed! The nurse takes the heat from just about everyone when something wrong is done, goes wrong, despite they weren’t present, doesn’t get done, tho delegated to the appropriate co-worker….it seems the RN is always the fall guy! That could have been ANY RN in this nation! She was thrown under the bus, and in result, may cost an even bigger shortage as RNs leave the BS due to fear…
Absolutely! I smell cover up, and they threw that RN under the bus! There are peer review boards for a reason! That should have happened 1st! VUMC has opened Panodora’s box, where RNs will not come forth in making mistakes, a human error! Shame on them! Don’t be shocked when nurses start leaving BS in droves!
Healthcare administrators get the big bucks, but they don’t appear to be responsible for providing a safe environment for bedside providers and patients. This country needs good conditions and good science for bedside providers and patients.
Per the Nurses Practice Act, and under the doctrine of respondeat superior: the employer is held liable for the nurse performing any negligent act during their professional relationship while performing a job duty (i.e., she was clocked in on the floor), and within the scope of the responsibilities of the employer.
Well, that is interesting.
I believe there were many flaws in this trial. 1. There was not a jury of PEERs. No one should be judging a nurse until they walk in a nurse’s shoes. 2. As a preceptor, the nurse assignment should have been on a single floor. Being scattered all over the hospital is not safe. Attention needs to be given to the orientee and the patient. Administering conscious sedation medication, sedatives, opiates.. require monitoring a patient. Every hospital I have ever worked at either has an interventional radiology RN or the RN stays with the pt coming from a critical unit.… Read more »
The reality is- overall VUMC is required and is responsible to provide a safe patient care environment. By encouraging the use of overrides with the Accudose machines as a normal practice they introduced normalization of deviance into that situation. Obviously this ended in catastrophe. Further they did not further sequester the vecuronium even after the ISMP warned of these exact errors elsewhere. And even more telling, while the coverup was in place they did zero to correct and improve the patient safety situation. This is evidenced by the results of the CMS report which detailed that as a result of… Read more »
Vanderbilt administrators clearly sacrificed Ms. Vaught and absolutely should be held accountable for their role in Mrs. Murphey’s unfortunate death. While she will not serve time in a physical prison, make no mistake, Ms. Vaught will struggle. Why shouldn’t the administrators who KNEW of the issues with Pyxis and Epic be held responsible for their part? As a nurse, I can say this will affect the way we perform our duties which obviously impacts the patients. Many are afraid to go to work for fear that they will make an error that will cost them everything they’ve worked for and… Read more »
A Vanderbilt nurse is responsible for the death of my husband, but by the time I decided to look into suing her, I had missed the deadline by one week! MY husband would be alive today, were it not for her barbaric actions!!! And I have to live with knowing that I failed in my duty to protect him from anyone who would hurt him.