To Prosecute or Not To Prosecute

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To Prosecute or Not To Prosecute As stated in the Code of Ethics for Nurses (1985), the nurse assumes responsibility and accountability for individual nursing judgments and actions. In other words, the nurse is ultimately responsible for all interventions and aspects of care that he/she gives the patient, whether it is knowledge-based and appropriate, negligent and improper, or even honest human mistakes that at times result in patient deaths. Those honest human mistakes that nurses have the possibility of making and that do result in patient deaths can cause nurses their licenses and even put them in jail. However, should nurses be criminally prosecuted for their mistakes that result in patient deaths? According to Christy Lyon (1998), healthcare practitioners across the country are asking the very same question. The nationwide debate on sanctions that nurses should face for mistakes made on the job began in April 1997 when three Registered Nurses in Denver, Colorado were charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of an infant. In this case, a physician ordered an intramuscular injection of penicillin for a day-old infant at risk of syphilis. The pharmacist incorrectly dispensed a syringe containing 10 times the prescribed amount. Although the infant's primary nurse did not notice firsthand, a staff nurse noticed the large dose and discussed it with a neonatal nurse practitioner, who then told the staff nurse to change the route of administration to intravenous so the child would only be stuck once. Although the nurses consulted several books, they did not consult with the physician before administering the penicillin. The baby soon died thereafter. The Colorado Board of Nursing suspended the nurse ... ... middle of paper ... ...rors, however, it should be up to the state board of nursing to decide on the punishment that would best fit the error. Then depending on the severity and negligence of the error, should the state board of nursing call in the district attorney, rather than the district attorney stepping in on his own. All in all, however, I think that nurses should only be prosecuted when there is the intention and direct infliction of harm on the patient, while all other errors should be punished using civil sanctions. Bibliography: American Nurses Association. (1985). Code for nurses with interpretive statements. Kansas City, MO: Author. Lyon, Christy. (1998). Crime and punishment. Retrieved from the World Wide Web October 25, 2000: http://www.nurseweek.com. Smith, Adam. (Ed.). (1986). The essential Adam Smith. New York: Norton.
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