Nurse indicted for diluting vial of morphine

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Clanton woman has been indicted for diluting a vial of morphine while working as a registered nurse at Prattville Baptist Hospital.

Susie Michelle Strength, 35, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a single count of tampering with a consumer product, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama said in a release on Thursday.

According to the indictment, Strength removed some of the morphine from a vial, replaced it with saline solution, and returned the vial to the drug administration machine known as a “Pyxis” machine at the hospital.

The indictment alleges that Strength acted with reckless disregard or extreme indifference to the risk that her actions might cause bodily injury to another person.

“The nature of the relationship between nurses and their patients is a special one which cannot be allowed to be compromised by horrendous conduct such as diluting pain medications intended for patients,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. in a release. “These patients are often in severe pain and need this pain medication. To dilute the morphine puts a patient in more pain and could be life threatening. Anyone who engages in such behavior deserves to be aggressively prosecuted.”

Beck offered his thanks to Prattville Baptist Hospital for bringing the matter to his attention.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed; and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The tampering charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bob Anderson and Denise Simpson are prosecuting the case.