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Former Vanderbilt nurse charged with patient abuse, reckless homicide after woman's death

Photo: TBI

A Nashville nurse is behind bars on charges of patient abuse and reckless homicide following an investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

TBI agents in Nov. 2018 along with the Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigate Team with the Davidson County District Attorney General's Office started investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Charlene Murphey.

Murphey was a patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Dec. 26, 2017 while authorities say Radonda Vaught was a registered nurse, part of the team providing Murphey's treatment. Inspection reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services obtained by FOX 17 News show that the nurse's deadly error happened just days after the patient was admitted for headaches, swelling of the brain and other symptoms.

A doctor ordered 2 milligrams of Versed, a drug used to treat anxiety at 2:47 p.m. on Dec. 26, but inspection reports say the nurse instead administered 10 milligrams of Vecuronium, a neuromuscular blocking agent which causes paralysis sometimes used during surgeries. A review of the automatic dispensing cabinet showed the nurse used the override feature to gain access to the paralyzing agent.

A physician called for code in the PET scanner at 3:45 p.m. and noted that the patient identified by TBI as Murphey was "pulseless and unresponsive on arrival." Murphey was readmitted to neuro critical care after suffering cardiac arrest while undergoing the PET scan and died on Dec. 27.

The TBI said agents learned that actions taken by Vaught were responsible for Murphey's death.

Vaught is no longer an employee with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A representative with Vanderbilt University Medical Center issued the following statement about the charges against the former nurse.

“We learned today that a nurse formerly employed by VUMC has been arrested and criminally charged in connection with an incident that occurred in December 2017 in which a patient received medication not ordered for her and ultimately died,” said John Howser, Chief Communications Officer for VUMC. “We have cooperated fully with regulatory and law enforcement agencies investigating the incident. That includes providing background information about the event itself, along with physical evidence, requested health records information and other documents.”

The Davidson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Vaught with one count of impaired adult abuse and one count of reckless homicide. Vaught was arrested and booked into the Davidson County Jail on a $50,000 bond Monday.

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