Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wisconsin Nurse Charged

Charge against Wisconsin nurse in death shocks fellow caregivers:

Prosecutors filed a felony charge against [Julie] Thao, igniting a debate over whether medical professionals who make unintentional yet deadly mistakes should face criminal charges, on top of civil punishment from victims and regulators.

Officials say the charge against Thao reflected a series of dangerous decisions she made that led to the July 5 death of 16-year-old Jasmine Gant, an expectant mother whose 8-pound baby boy survived.

Gant died after Thao mistakenly gave her a dose of epidural instead of penicillin to treat a strep infection during labor. The epidural, a potent pain reliever used during child birth, caused Gant to go into cardiac arrest and die within hours.

Thao told investigators she was in a rush to treat Gant and inadvertently scooped up the bag containing epidural instead of penicillin. Both medications were on the counter in the birthing suite at St. Mary's Medical Center in Madison.

The case has alarmed groups representing medical professionals who say punishment for unintentional errors should be left to regulators and the civil court system.

While calling the death tragic, they say the charge sends the wrong message at a time of nursing shortages and attempts to improve self-reporting of medical errors.

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