Opinion: The case of RaDonda Vaught highlights a double standard for nurses and physicians

Convicting a nurse for making a grave error versus acquitting a physician who intentionally causes harm goes against the very aim of creating a culture of patient safety.

RaDonda Vaught, a former nurse in Tennessee, was sentenced on Friday to three years of supervised probation after being convicted in March of making a fatal medication error in 2017, which resulted in the death of a patient under her care. Although Vaught isn’t being sent to prison, her conviction and sentencing, meted out for the kind of error that routinely occurs in health care institutions across the U.S., are a true travesty of justice.

That’s a far cry from what happened to William Husel, a former Ohio physician, who was acquitted of murder in April for hastening the deaths of 14 critically ill patients under his care by ordering doses of the painkiller fentanyl that were 10 times the amount ordinarily ordered for critically ill patients. Husel knowingly, and with intent, ordered the inordinate dosage of medication to patients across the lifespan — from their late 30s to their 80s — with a variety of ailments ranging from pneumonia to cancer.

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