NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Former Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught was sentenced to three years of supervised probation in a Tennessee courtroom Friday after she was convicted of negligent homicide in the 2017 death of 75-year-old Charlene Murphey.
Vaught was previously found guilty of two charges: criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult.
Vaught was accused of administering a fatal dose of the wrong medication. She admitted to using the wrong medication but pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2019.
Charlene Murphey of Gallatin was waiting for a standard scan at Vanderbilt Medical Center in 2017 when she was administered a fatal dose of the wrong medication. Investigators found Vaught was supposed to give Murphey a sedative for her comfort but instead administered a different medication that causes paralysis.
Vaught has said she was “distracted” when she overrode a safety feature on the automated medication dispenser, failing to catch a number of red flags between the time she grabbed the medication and gave it to the patient.
Vaught’s case has captured national attention on social media, with hundreds of thousands following the trial proceedings.
Following the guilty verdict, the American Nurses Association released a statement warning that the trial could create a precedent that would ultimately endanger patients if the criminalization of medical errors has “a chilling effect on reporting and process improvement.”
The nursing community continued to push for clemency since the verdict was read. On Friday, a rally was held by nurses and health care workers outside the Davidson County courthouse prior to Vaught’s sentencing, with the crowd watching hearing proceedings online after the rally.
Judge Jennifer Smith said the court received numerous letters, calls and voicemails in relation to Vaught’s case, but they could not be considered in sentencing as it would not have been appropriate.
Members of Murphey’s family took the witness stand. “Knowing my mom and the way she was, she wouldn’t want to see [Vaught] get any jail time. She is a very forgiving person,” Charlene’s son Michael Murphey said. “My dad would want her to get the max.”
“We just feel like my mother-in-law got lost in all of this,” said Murphey’s daughter-in-law Chandra Murphey, adding that her family just wants peace and closure.
“We forgive her, and jail time is not an option to me for her,” said Chandra Murphey.
Multiple nurses who worked with Vaught then took the stand to vouch for her professionalism as a nurse and quality as a friend.
Vaught also stood before the court and gave a lengthy apology to Murphey’s family, along with her own personal statement on how the case has impacted her as a nurse and a person.
“I have lost far more than my nursing license and career. I will never be the same person. When Mrs. Murphey died, part of me died with her,” said Vaught.
Vaught concluded her statement by asking the judge for leniency in her sentencing. She can never be employed in the medical field again.