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Bioethics   Steven Ertelt   Dec 3, 2003   |   9:00AM    WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri Nurse Only Gets Probation After Euthanasia Death

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
December 3, 2003

St. Louis, MO ( — After a St. Louis nurse murdered a patient in her care by lethal overdose, the only punishment she received was five years probation.

Daillyn Pavia, a registered nurse since 1993, was charged in the death Julia Dawson, 86, on May 5, 2001, who was in her care at St. Louis University Hospital. She pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and in return she received only a five year probation from practicing medicine.

Pavia’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum said his goal had been to keep his client out of prison.

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce initially tried to get a charge of first-degree murder, the fact that Pavia had no prior record or indication she was involved in other deaths, and that Dawson’s only son did not want Pavia charged, made it difficult to maintain a hard line. Joyce later said her goal was to convict Pavia of a felony and keep her from practicing medicine.

Pro-life advocates say the case is a travesty of justice and allows others to commit euthanasia knowing they will only receive a slap on the wrist if caught.

"Many prosecutors are obviously reluctant to push for prison time or even a trial as they would for other homicides when the crime is seen as a ‘mercy killing,’ and especially when the family doesn’t object," said Nancy Valko, a representative of Nurses for Life.

"Like the Dr. Thompson case in Vermont, it’s becoming increasingly rare to see medical people get more than a slap on the hand even when they admit killing patients," added Valko. "We may have laws against euthanasia but, if they are not used in such obvious cases, we are rapidly reaching a state where euthanasia is still technically illegal in most states, but more or less openly tolerated."

In Vermont, Dr. Lloyd Thompson, the head of the state medical society, admitted he gave a patient Norcuron, a drug that causes muscle paralysis, along with the 85-year old woman’s normal pain medication. The patient died within minutes after receiving the drug.

Though neither the patient nor her family ask him to hasten her death, no charges were filed. Thompson stepped down as president of the Vermont Medical Society, but faced no legal repercussions.

Despite the fact he thought "her intentions were honorable," Rosenblum admitted he was surprised by the plea bargain.

"The charge was very serious. It was murder in the first degree and I think it was an unusual agreement where the state agreed to place Daillyn on probation," he told reporters.

The University Hospital agreed that the incident was serious.

"This was a criminal act of an individual and not a failure of a hospital process, policy, practice or procedure," said Susan Hakes, a hospital spokeswoman.

Dawson had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at home the day before. After seeking permission from Dawson’s son, Kenneth, Pavia injected her with 15 times the maximum dose of morphine, as well as a sedative, without a prescription. Dawson died within minutes.

Pavia will be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if she violates terms of her parole.

She was suspected in the death following comments she made to other hospital workers, and when an autopsy showed the drug overdose.

Valko said the "writing off" of seniors following strokes is becoming increasingly common.

"In [Dawson’s] case, this happened the day after her stroke," said Valko. "Even though strokes are not necessarily terminal events, and many victims don’t require a ventilator, it’s becoming more and more common to write off the elderly soon after such strokes rather than giving them a chance to recover."

Related web site:
Nurses for Life –