You be the judge.
Did this nurse cross the line between a breach of the standard of care and criminal misconduct?
Nursing and hospital officials were outraged Thursday after the state filed a felony charge against the nurse whose medication error caused the death of a teenager at St. Mary’s Hospital in July.
It’s the first time a health- care worker has been criminally charged for an unintentional error in Wisconsin, the officials said. They said the filing could make it more difficult to recruit and retain nurses, already in short supply.
An official with the state Department of Justice, which charged Julie Thao with neglect of a patient causing great bodily harm, defended the move.
“The circumstances of the case go well beyond a simple mistake,” said department spokesman Mike Bauer. He said Thao violated several hospital and nursing rules.
Thao, who no longer works at St. Mary’s, was caring for 16- year-old Jasmine Gant of Fitchburg on July 5 as Gant was about to deliver a baby.
She mistakenly gave Gant an epidural anesthetic intravenously, a state investigation previously revealed. Gant was supposed to receive penicillin through the IV for a strep infection. An epidural is supposed to be injected near the spine to numb the pelvic area during birth.
Gant died shortly after the error. Her baby boy, delivered by emergency Caesarean section, survived.
According to the criminal complaint, Thao:
Improperly removed the epidural bag from a locked storage system. Gant’s physician, Dr. Joseph Fok, never ordered the epidural.
Didn’t scan the bar code on the epidural bag, which would have told her it was the wrong drug.
Ignored a bright pink label on the bag that said in bold letters, “FOR EPIDURAL ADMINISTRATION ONLY.”
Disregarded hospital and nursing rules in failing to confirm a patient’s “five rights” when receiving drugs: right patient, right route, right dose, right time and right medication.
“The actions, omissions and unapproved shortcuts of the defendant constituted a gross breach of medical protocol, resulting in the death” of Gant, wrote Gregory Schuler, an investigator with the justice department’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.