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SGT Partner Ernie Teitell Discusses Health Care Professionals’ Liability at Quinnipiac University Panel

October 27, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STAMFORD, CT (October 27, 2022)Ernie Teitell, a Partner at the Stamford trial law firm of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, recently participated in a panel at Quinnipiac University Center for Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences that examined health care professionals’ criminal liability and whether — and when -- it is appropriate to prosecute for medical errors that result in patient harm.

The six-member panel of legal and medical experts discussed the case of RaDonda Vaught, a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse who was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult after she mistakenly administered the wrong medication that resulted in a patient death in 2017. 

The trial in Nashville, TN, garnered national attention and sparked a debate over when it is appropriate to prosecute health care professionals for medical errors that result in harm to patients.  Vaught was convicted in May 2022 and sentenced to three years' probation.

The panelists rejected the notion that Vaught alone was responsible for the patient’s death. They focused, in part, on the flaws in the healthcare system in which the fatal medication error took place.

“The panel was very insightful in examining this particular case and expressing the view that some hospitals are failing to provide the level of proper training and the necessary protocols for nursing staff to safely care for patients,” said Attorney Teitell.  “Healthcare is a complex system and the standard of patient care can be negatively impacted by both human error and systems that are faulty and unsafe.  Unfortunately, like the Vaught case, this combination can have a fatal effect on patients.”

“Vaught’s case raises many questions about the precedent of using criminal law to prosecute health care professionals for bad patient outcomes in a poorly designed healthcare system,” noted JT Torres, PhD, the director of Quinnipiac’s Center for Teaching and Learning. “This has huge implications for how we educate healthcare students.  Prosecuting health care professionals for medical error requires a critical examination of what it means to educate and train everyone from current professionals to future students.”

In addition to SGT Partner Teitell, the panel included: Julie Dickinson, Clinical Risk Manager at the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Health Care System; Leonard Dwarica, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for Health Law, Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy and Director of the Health Law Concentration at Quinnipiac; Gladys Vallespir Ellett, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Quinnipiac; Jennifer L. Herbst, Professor of Law and Medical Sciences at Quinnipiac; and Dr. Rich Teitell, an emergency medicine physician.  The panel was moderated by Caitlin Hanrahan, who graduated from the Quinnipiac Nursing program in August and now works at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The complete panel discussion was filmed by the Connecticut Network and can be viewed at https://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=21074.

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