Nurse Faces Federal Charges for Diluting a Patient’s Morphine

A nurse in Illinois faces prison time for diluting morphine when providing the medication to a patient in 2021. This incident shows how medical staff can violate patients’ trust and engage in malpractice, putting patients’ lives at risk in the process.

nurse in OR during surgery giving the patient diluted morphine. 199445784

If a nurse or another healthcare professional tampers with medication, not only could he or she face federal charges, but victims or their loved ones may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against the offending employee.

Diluting Patients’ Morphine: A Federal Offense

An Illinois nurse has recently faced federal charges for tampering with a patient’s liquid morphine at an unspecified nursing facility. The nurse replaced a prescribed amount of morphine with a liquid mixture comprising morphine and another liquid, potentially causing harm to the patient.

The Federal Anti-Tampering Act establishes that it’s a federal crime to tamper with medication. The act works to punish individuals and entities, including nurses and other healthcare personnel, who attempt to cause bodily injury or death or maliciously cause either by tampering with a drug, food, cosmetic product, or another type of consumer product. The act also covers attempts to tarnish a business’s reputation.

People who violate this act could face as much as 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000, regardless of whether the tampering results in death or injury. However, the prison sentence could go up to life if the offense results in injury or death.

In addition, the Federal Anti-Tampering Act aims to punish individuals who give false information around instances of tampering if the tampering results in injuries, death, or fear of injury, or if a recall takes place.

This act and other legal efforts hope to protect patients and others from potential tampering at the hands of the people they should count on for proper care. If you or a loved one experiences product tampering because of another party’s negligence or malicious acts, you may be able to recover compensation in a medical malpractice case, in addition to ensuring the offending party faces federal charges.

Can You Sue a Nurse for Tampering With Your Medication?

Nurses, like other healthcare practitioners, must meet a standard of care when treating patients. They must follow the right steps for care and adhere to protocols and procedures in place. If a nurse negligently or maliciously breaches his or her duty of care, patients or their loved ones may sue the liable nurse to recover compensation.

Similar to the story above, instances of malpractice could involve deliberate tampering with medication or other products when treating patients. However, they could wind up committing other types of medication errors, with cases involving nursing errors due to fatigue rather than intentional improper conduct.

Types of Nursing Errors That Can Result in a Lawsuit

Depending on the nature of the malpractice, nurses could commit multiple errors that cause injury or death to patients. Some of the most common errors include:

  • Medication Errors — One of the most common errors that nurses commit involves medication errors. While some types of prescription errors can result from momentary absent-mindedness as nurses simply fail to measure or provide the right dose, other more serious medication errors involve intentional instances of tampering, giving incorrect dosages, or failing to provide medication when needed.
  • Documentation Errors — Nurses could commit errors in documentation. They may fail to update information or enter inaccurate information in forms, which could cause serious harm to patients.
  • Infections — Nurses could cause infections in patients by failing to maintain proper hygiene through handwashing or other measures. In addition to neglecting to wash hands, nursing staff could cause infections in patients by failing to use sterile equipment or sterilize equipment after use, or they may fail to adhere to other guidelines in place for proper cleaning and sterilization.
  • Communication Errors — Nurses could commit communication errors that cause harm to patients. For instance, they may not give sufficient information about a patient’s condition or treatment to doctors or other superiors. They could intentionally withhold information or provide incorrect information, leading to inadequate or improper treatment that causes harm.
  • Fall Injuries — Nurses must work to prevent patient falls in healthcare environments. Many patients are vulnerable to injuries resulting from falls, requiring the assistance of nurses and other staff to keep them upright when moving them, whether transporting the patient to another area or engaging in rehabilitation or physical therapy exercises. Depending on the health of the patient and the nature of the fall, patient falls could lead to serious injury or even death.

These are some of the most common nursing errors that can occur and lead to serious harm to patients. In the event of these errors, you may be able to hold the liable nurse accountable, ensuring that he or she faces federal charges in a criminal case in addition to civil consequences in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Recoverable Compensation in Malpractice Cases Involving Nurses

If a nurse engages in malpractice and causes injury or death to a patient as a result, victims or their families could seek financial compensation from the liable party in a lawsuit. There are several types of compensation that people may recover in these cases.

One of the main types of compensation in medical malpractice cases is economic damages. Also known as monetary damages, economic damages are those involving direct financial losses resulting from instances of malpractice. These include any and all costs related to the malpractice, including medical bills for additional or corrective treatment required for improper or inadequate care, loss of income and earning capacity, the costs of physical therapy or rehabilitation, and other pertinent costs.

In addition to economic damages, cases could involve non-economic damages. These are damages that involve personal losses resulting from malpractice. They’re not as easy to calculate as economic damages, but they come with calculable costs that lawyers and courts can determine, adding them to a total settlement amount. Examples of non-economic damages in these cases include pain and suffering, psychological distress, trauma and post-traumatic stress, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and other personal losses.

If a patient dies because of malpractice, wrongful death compensation could also play a role in a case. The damages involved in wrongful death cases are often the same as those in other malpractice cases, with various economic and non-economic damages. In addition to the damages discussed, extra damages in wrongful death cases include burial and funeral expenses.

With the help of an experienced attorney, you can determine what damages factor into your case and your settlement amount.

The Benefits of Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney

In the event of a nursing error or another type of malpractice, consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss a case. With the help of the right attorney, you can maximize your settlement, increase your chances of successfully seeking compensation, and focus on recovering while experiencing peace of mind when progressing with your case.

Some advantages of hiring a medical malpractice attorney include:

Proving Negligence

If you want to succeed with a medical malpractice case, you must prove liability, which entails proving a number of elements. First, you must prove that a nurse or another healthcare professional owed a duty of care, often by establishing a patient-doctor relationship. Additionally, you must prove that this professional violated this duty of care, and that this breach of duty led to definable damages to you or a loved one.

Proving malpractice can be challenging, but an attorney can gather sufficient evidence to help support your case and prove liability. Evidence could include everything from medical records and footage to expert witness statements.

Increasing Your Chances of Success

An attorney will work with you to determine your total settlement amount and fight for it during negotiations with negligent parties and their attorneys. A good lawyer will understand the tactics that insurers and defendants might use in these cases and help you navigate them to reach a favorable settlement.

An attorney may take your case to trial if you are unable to settle during negotiations.

Suing Nurses for Malpractice

The recent nursing malpractice case in Illinois shows how healthcare staff could violate patients’ trust and right to adequate healthcare. Taking the right steps in a malpractice case allows you to get total compensation in the event of medication tampering and other malpractice.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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