Snohomish Nurse Sentenced to Prison for Watering-down Morphine
A Snohomish nurse accused of watering down patients' pain medication to cover up her morphine thefts has been sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges.
Entering the guilty plea to a single count of product tampering in November, Jolene Larsen -- a licensed practical nurse employed for 14 years at Merry Haven Care Center -- admitted replacing morphine she'd taken with tap water, then allowing the tainted drugs to be fed to at least one resident of the center. Larsen, 38, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court.
In the guilty plea filed Friday, Larsen admitted she began taking the morphine herself in November 2009 and continued until she was caught in May.
"One patient under Larsen's care at Merry Haven is known to have received morphine sulfate that Larsen had diluted with tap water," authors of a plea agreement signed by Larsen noted. "That patient did not receive full-strength morphine when she should have and continued to experience pain."
At least one other patient nearly received a tainted dose of morphine. The nurse administering the drug noticed that it was lighter in color than the liquid morphine contained in other vials.
In pleading guilty, Larsen admitted that she acted "with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of bodily injury" and held "extreme indifference" to the pain potentially caused by her actions.
As Seattle medical malpractice attorneys, we are appalled by the behavior if this nurse. Patients who receive diluted liquid morphine will continue to experience pain. Additionally, if a doctor is unaware that the previously administered morphine was diluted and decides to up the dosage to control pain, there is a risk of the patient could then be administered too large a dosage of undiluted morphine. We hope that the jail sentence imposed on this nurse will act as a warning to others who may think of not properly dispensing prescribed medications.
Seattle Medical Malpractice •