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US nurse faces murder charge after unauthorised injection for war veteran

A former nurse in the US has been indicted for murder in the death of a patient at a Lexington hospital, after giving the 97-year-old a sedative, intended for another patient, against orders.

Eyvette Renee Hunter (52), was arrested last week for giving lorazepam (Ativan) on 30 April to James Morris at Baptist Health Hospital.

MedPage Today reports that against the orders of the nurse and the physician, she “performed actions of medical maltreatment” and Morris died on 5 May “as a direct result of those actions”.

The hospital fired her the same day, and her nursing licence was suspended indefinitely on 22 August after the Kentucky Board of Nursing looked into a complaint from the hospital. According to the suspension order, Morris had been admitted for a slip and fall injury.

The report nurse had told Hunter the patient had been restless and spent most of the previous night in the hallway sitting in a recliner. Hunter alleged she helped him to his chair, but he became “became agitated and aggressive, so she went to get restraints”.

After her request to medicate Morris was denied, Hunter obtained 2mg of lorazepam intended for another patient. Lorazepam is used to slow activity to the brain and induce relaxation, but serious breathing troubles are a known side effect.

When Morris tried to get up and set off a chair alarm, Hunter came back in with other staff and gave him an injection. After Morris was sedated, Hunter was asked what she had given him, and replied “something special”.

Another nurse found Morris struggling to breathe and his oxygen monitor disconnected; Hunter “had disarmed/lowered the oxygen monitoring system several times as to not set off an alarm at the bedside”, according to the suspension order. Morris had low blood oxygen, and after a respiratory therapist gave him breathing treatment and suctioned him, they found “a greyish/black substance thought to be food and/or medication”, indicating he had breathed food or medication into the lungs.

The Board of Nursing’s suspension order states that Hunter later admitted that she had given Morris lorazepam, without an order, “as well as, subsequently feeding him”.

She also changed documentation for the patient for whom the medication was originally intended, to state “not given”.

Morris was given medication to reverse the effects of the lorazepam and was responsive. On 3 May he was released to hospice care and but ultimately died on 5 May from “aspirational pneumonia”, reports Daily Mail.

Lexington police began investigating about two months after Morris’ death, when the case was referred to them by the state Attorney-General’s office, reports the Lexington Herald Leader. Police said Baptist Health was co-operative with the investigation.

Morris was a retired federal government employee, and a World War II veteran, as well as a Korean War vet.

Hunter had previously worked as a hospice nurse, and as a nurse at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington.

She is currently being held on a $100 000 bond.

 

MedPage Today article – Kentucky Nurse Accused of Killing Elderly Patient (Open access)

 

Daily Mail article – Traveling nurse, 52, is charged with murdering veteran, 97, 'after illegally administering shot of "something special" and disabling his oxygen machine' (Open access)

 

Lexington Herald Leader article – Updated: Patient dies after unauthorized injection, nurse gets charged with murder (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

US former nurse convicted in lethal drug error sentenced to three years probation

 

Murder, euthanasia or a doctor’s discretion in pain management?

 

Medical error and ‘chilling’ conviction of US nurse for criminally negligent homicide

 

Criminal conviction for injection death causes consternation in US nursing profession

 

 

 

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