Fellow Nurses Rally in Support

By: Melissa Wollering
By: Melissa Wollering

A former nurse facing criminal charges in a patient neglect case has colleagues in her professon outraged. More than 100 local nurses and nursing students rallied outside the Dane County Courthouse, where the woman appeared in court Thursday.

It could happen to any of us: that was the sentiment among dozens of nurses gathered outside the Dane County Courthouse Thursday.

"We're all here today just to show our support for the nurse, to Julie, and also to let the Department of Justice know that we are not at all pleased with their decision to move forward with this," says Wisconsin Nurses Association Executive Director Gina Dennik-Champion.

Prosecutors are moving forward with felony patient neglect charges against 41-year-old Julie Thao. Thao was one of the registered nurses helping 16-year-old Jasmine Gant, who went into Madison's St. Mary's hospital to give birth last July. The complaint says Thao reached for what she thought was a bag of penicilin, but instead grabbed an epidural and injected it into Gant's bloodstream, killing her.

"The defendant made several dangerous decisions, not just a simple decision but several dangerous, which ultimately resulted in the death of this young woman," said Assistant Attorney General Eric DeFort.

UW Nursing student Lars Bland says the future of his profession is at stake and the outcome may discourage young adults from entering it.

"What it might mean for medical malpractice insurance, whether we're going to have to have personal medical malpractice insurance or whatever's going to happen, but this is going to affect us more than anybody else," says Lars Bland.

"There isn't room for this, this should not be in the criminal court system," says Dennik-Champion.

"There's just hundreds of checks and balances in a hospital and when you go down the whole system, those errors can happen any step of the way," says Meriter OB Nurse Jennifer Vurian.

Saint Mary's issued this statement on Thao Thursday: "St. Mary's strongly believes her actions were not crimes and the criminal charge should not have happened."

Julie Thao was booked and is out on signature bond. If convicted, she faces up to $25,000 in fines and six years in prison.

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