Police Investigate MD Nurse Who May Have Hastened Patients’ Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 22, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Police Investigate MD Nurse Who May Have Hastened Patients’ Deaths

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 22, 2003

Rockville, MD (LifeNews.com) — Police in Maryland’s Montgomery County are investigating several cases where a Shady Grove Adventist Hospital intensive care nurse allegedly hastened patients’ deaths.

Coleen Thompson of Rockville has not yet been charged with any crime, although the Maryland Board of Nursing, which regulates nurses in the state, revoked her license last week.

Thompson allegedly hastened the death of a 63 year-old patient woman on a ventilator who was being treated for respiratory failure and other medical problems and was on numerous medications.

On the evening of July 6, Thompson allegedly watched as the patient’s blood pressure plummeted from 116 over 46 to 11 over 11. Thompson called a physician five hours after the problems began, but it was too late, a document from the nursing board states.

Thompson is also accused of hastening the death of Richard Feller, 84. Feller was scheduled to be taken off of life support by his family, but the hospital said his death may have been hastened.

Feller, an engineer who supervised construction at Washington National Cathedral, had a living will and had been seriously ill for some time when he fell into a coma at the hospital.

Police said there were other acts, but did not give details.

"While this particular instance has not yet been fully investigated, it does draw attention to the need for health care professionals to respect the lives and the end-of-life wishes of their critically-ill patients," David Lam, director of Maryland Right to Life, told LifeNews.com.

Shady Grove President Deborah Yancer had requested that Thompson’s license be suspended and Thompson was suspended with pay July 10 after Yancer reviewed the evidence in the cases.

Last year, a federal court in Boston sentenced nurse Kristen Gilbert, 33, to death for killing four patients. In northern Virginia, three years ago, nurse Rhea R. Henson admitted giving a morphine overdose to heart-attack patient in a coma at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital.

Nancy Valko, president of Missouri Nurses for Life, said these kinds of situations will only happen more frequently as people become more tolerant of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

"Until people finally take euthanasia seriously, this nurse’s actions are only the tip of an iceberg that threatens to crush any of us," Valko said.

Thompson received a nursing degree and licensing in 1999.