Criminal Charges Brought Against Nurses: Negligence Caused Amputation Of Woman’s Hand

A mentally and physically disabled woman in New Jersey is now living without a hand after it had to be amputated after nurses wrapped it so tightly that it cut off blood circulation to the extremity. The woman had a broken finger that prompted the wrapping, but it was wrapped so tightly that the woman’s hand literally died, turned gangrenous, and had to be amputated. Not only were seven nurses fired over the incident, including two registered nurses and five licensed practical nurses, they were all also indicted on charges of harming a disabled person. The victim, Wendy Hart, lives in a group-like home called Vineland Yards, where there are always medical professionals on staff to assist residents like her.

Unfortunately, the nurse who wrapped her hand wrapped it so tightly, and wrapped it up to the tips of her fingers, which left it impossible for subsequent nurses to check circulation. There’s no doubt the wrapping was extremely painful, but it is unknown if the disabled woman was unable to communicate this. Registered nurses are required by law to assess patients during their shift. It would have been within a prudent nurse’s scope to check Hart’s fingers for temperature, color, and capillary refill, which would indicate an adequate blood supply. Not only was the first nurse who tightly wrapped the woman’s hand negligent, the six that followed her were negligent because they failed to provide due care in unwrapping her hand to a point where it could be adequately assessed. As a result of their inaction, her hand went without blood for many hours.

The indictment was issued last month and said the seven nurses failed to provide for the physical or emotional needs of the patient when their negligence caused the death and amputation of her hand in April 2002. An orthopedic surgeon provided damning testimony against the nurses. His words on the stand no doubt helped seal the fate of the nurses. They’ve been charged with criminal negligence and tampering and falsifying medical records, and their medical licenses have been revoked.

“Her hand was wrapped so tightly that only God could have removed that bandage.”

It is unknown why her hand was wrapped so tightly. Pressure dressings are usually only used when bleeding occurs, and in the case of a broken finger, that seems unlikely. Even when pressure dressings are applied, extremities must always be carefully assessed for circulation.

[image credit to ushealthonline]