“The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent,” the American Nurses Association said. “Health care delivery is highly complex. It is inevitable that mistakes will happen. ... It is completely unrealistic to think otherwise.”

The moment nurse RaDonda Vaught realized she had given a patient the wrong medication, she rushed to the doctors working to revive 75-year-old Charlene Murphey and told them what she had done. Within hours, she made a full report of her mistake to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, AP reports.

Murphey died the next day, on Dec. 27, 2017. On Friday, a jury found Vaught guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect.

That verdict — and the fact that Vaught was charged at all — worries patient safety and nursing groups that have worked for years to move hospital culture away from cover-ups, blame and punishment, and toward the honest reporting of mistakes.

The move to a “Just Culture” seeks to improve safety by analyzing human errors and making systemic changes to prevent their recurrence. And that can’t happen if providers think they could go to prison, they say.

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