Nine Case Study Nurse Malpractice
Nurses are known for being the kind face at the hospital, the patient’s advocate, and the “Angel of Life.” They’ve made a career out of caring for others selflessly. So when a nurse “goes bad” and does the unthinkable, it makes headlines, rattles the nursing industry and shocks the public.
From smaller crimes like stealing money and breaching patient confidentiality, to acts of a more serious nature like the death of a patient, take a look at our roundup of scandalous nursing stories in the news.
1. Nurse Charged With Murder in Romanian Hospital Fire
Florentina Daniela Cirstea, a nurse who worked at Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, was charged with murder for the death of five newborn babies in the hospital’s ICU in August. She is accused of not doing her job and supervising the babies, two boys and three girls, who died of severe burns from a fire on August 16.
The fire was started by an electrical cable attached to an AC unit in the ICU. Cirstea left the ICU for 12 minutes, and wasn’t able to evacuate and rescue the newborns once the fire started. Another member of the hospital staff called for help, but none of the staff members had the access card to get into the automatic door for the ICU and had to break the door down. Cirstea is also charged for the injuries of six surviving babies.
2. Nursing Assistant Charged With Killing Eight Babies
In July, 46-year-old French nursing assistant Dominique Cottrez was charged with the murder of her eight newborn babies. Police found the bones of two bodies at a home once owned by Cottrez and her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez; six more bodies were found at another home in the northeastern village of Villers-au-Tertre. She and her husband were both initially taken into custody; Pierre-Marie Cottrez was later freed as an “assisted witness.”
Cottrez admitted to suffocating the infants soon after she gave birth to them, between 1989 and 2006. She put their bodies in hermetically sealed bags and managed to keep it a secret for 17 years. Yikes!
3. Nurses Fired for Facebook Postings
Oh social media, how we love and hate you. Patient privacy and online networks like Facebook and Twitter have clashed often, most recently with the firing of five nurses in Oceanside, CA. They were accused of discussing patient cases on Facebook, although no photos, names, or other identity-compromising information was posted.
4. Nurses Fired Over Cell Phone Photos of Patient
It’s not just Facebook that gets nurses in trouble; cell phones are another weapon of choice when it comes to patient privacy. In February 2009, two Wisconsin nurses were fired from posting pictures of a patient on Facebook taken on a cell phone.
An anonymous call from a Mercy Walworth Medical Center employee tipped police off about the online pictures. Investigators discovered that the photos were taken when the patient was admitted to the ER due to a sex device in his rectum. However, the police haven’t found anyone who actually saw the pictures on Facebook, but said a discussion post of the situation was on one of the nurse’s profile.
5. Dozens Arrested in Medicare Fraud Busts Across U.S.
In July of 2009, over 30 suspects were arrested in a major Medicare fraud bust across the nation, including doctors and nurses. Arrests made in New York, Louisiana, Miami, Boston, and Houston, tracking scams from a health care clinic that sold “arthritis kits” to clinics and patients for $3,000 to $4,000. The false kits, consisting of braces, heating pads and other expensive orthotics, were sometimes never delivered, and completely irrelevant to medical treatment.
In Houston, police authorities broke a huge Medicare scam involving Ensure, food supplement for patients on a liquid diet. The clinic in question never gave patients the Ensure that they billed Medicare thousands of dollars for, and sometimes billed Medicare for patients who had already died.
Approximately $371 million in false Medicare claims has been recovered, and approximately 145 people were charged of health care fraud and face prison sentences of 50 percent more than the average sentence for cases of health care fraud.
6. Doc, Nurses Arrested in Katrina Deaths
Hurricane Katrina shocked the nation, as we witnessed a new level of disaster and tragedy, and post-Katrina recovery was slow going and equally horrifying. But even more shocking were the murders of elderly patients.
Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses, Chery Landry and Lori Budo, were arrested based on accusations of intentionally giving four older patients lethal doses of morphine and Versed, a sedative. According to an affidavit, Pou told a nurse to inject “lethal doses” to the patients who couldn’t be evacuated from Memorial Medical Center three days after Katrina hit. Pou said that the patients were not likely to survive anyway.
7. Nurse ‘Tried to Kill Patients’
A 47-year-old nurse, Barbara Salisbury, was arrested on murder charges in 2004. Salisbury, a ward sister at Leighton Hospital in Crewe, Cheshire, was accused of attempting to kill four elderly patients.
The patients, Reuben Thompson, 81, Frank Owen, 92, James Byrne, 76, and Frances May Taylor, 88 were allegedly killed between 1999 and 2001. Each patient was killed in a different way, including being given the wrong dosage amounts and being deprived of oxygen.
Although Salisbury denied the charges, she was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder for Taylor and Own, and sentenced to five years in prison. The court was told that she was motivated by a need to free up beds on the ward. Salisbury was found not guilty in the deaths of Byrne and Thompson. Additionally, the Nursing and Midwifery Council found her guilty of two misconduct counts and removed her name from the nursing registry.
8. Nurse to Stand Trial for Reporting Doctor
Along more innocent lines, in February of 2010, an administrative nurse, Anne Mitchell, was taken to court for reporting a doctor on her staff of medical malpractice at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Texas. Mitchell, along with the nursing community, was shocked at being indicted and threatened with 10 years or prison for “misuse of official information.” She believed she was just doing her job for reporting Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. to the Texas Medical Board in April 2009.
Mitchell said she noticed a series of questionable medical practices by Dr. Arafiles, including a bad skin graft and an unconventional surgery in which the doctor sutured a rubber tip to a patient’s finger (the Texas Department of State Health Services eventually declared the latter procedure inappropriate). So she wrote an anonymous letter with the help of another nurse, Vickilyn Galle.
In order to convict Mitchell, the prosecution had to prove that she intended to harm Dr. Arafiles’ reputation and used her status at the hospital to distribute classified information for a “nongovernmental purpose.” Legal experts argued that Texas whistle-blower laws should protect Mitchell.
Mitchell got her victory: In February, she was quickly acquitted in trial. Additionally, in August, Mitchell and Galle won a $750,000 settlement from Winkler County, Texas after filing a lawsuit for being fired and criminally prosecuted. Furthermore, in April, the Department of State Health Services fined the hospital $15,850 for failing to supervise Dr. Arafiles appropriately and for firing Mitchell and Galle.
Dr. Arafiles continues to work at the hospital, and awaits a hearing for a number of charges by the Texas Medical Board. He could have his license restricted or revoked.
9. Nurse ‘Killed Patients for Kicks’
In 2004, Benjamin Green, a male nurse at Horton Hospital in Banbury, Oxfordshire, was suspended and arrested for allegedly murdering two patients and nearly killing 16 more so he could “revel in the thrill of trying to revive his victims,” according to The Times. Green injected patients with morphine-based painkillers, anesthetics, and muscle relaxants, often causing “dry drowning,” meaning the patient is consciously paralyzed with difficulty breathing.
The prosecution argued that Green enjoyed the drama of resuscitating a sick patient, using a variety of ways to make them suffer respiratory failure. Although Green denies killing the two patients and being involved with the other 16, investigators discovered that Green was on duty for each incident, which occurred over a period of nine weeks between December 2003 and February 2004.
Furthermore, when Green was arrested, police found an old, wet syringe, that tests found had traces of two drugs. One of the drugs found was a muscle relaxant used to paralyze patients in surgery.