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RaDonda Vaught and the Urgent Need to Support Healthcare Professionals

The FIGS team

April 24, 2022

We recently put out an Instagram post with our reaction to the RaDonda Vaught verdict. The post generated over 100k likes and more engagement than any post we’ve ever put out, and it continued an intense discussion that’s been brewing in the healthcare community in the wake of RaDonda’s conviction. Given the importance of this issue to our community, we wanted to share our thoughts in greater detail.

First off, we recognize that there are strongly held views on both sides of this issue. We understand the perspectives of some who believe that RaDonda’s mistakes—however unintentional—should be punished to the maximum extent, and that not doing so creates a stain for the countless nurses who would not have made these same mistakes.

While we respect that perspective, that is not our view. At FIGS, we are fortunate to serve almost two million healthcare professionals, a big portion of whom are nurses, and our community is extremely tight. We hear from them regularly about issues large and small that affect them and the profession overall. The last two years have only intensified the struggles they face at work, and the extent of their anguish cannot be overstated. Their mental health is suffering. They are grossly underpaid. Their safety is being jeopardized by patient ratios that are unmanageable. And so many of them have paid the ultimate price for leading us through COVID.

So it is very difficult for us to look at the RaDonda Vaught case in a vacuum. The healthcare community needs our collective support. Now.

When we look at what happened, the tragedy is plain to see, and it is painful. Many mistakes were made by RaDonda and by the hospital, and as a horrific consequence, Charlene Murphey tragically lost her life.

But what now? Should RaDonda go to prison for unintentional mistakes? In our view, unintentional mistakes should never send a healthcare professional to prison. Not before the challenges of the last two years, and certainly not now. For the very best among us—who sacrifice more than almost anyone else, who spend the rest of their day saving lives and spreading kindness, who are not being adequately supported, who have only the best intentions, and whose jobs cannot possibly be mistake-free—we cannot support criminalizing human error. Licensing actions, sure. But not prison.

This verdict will not prevent future mistakes. But it will create fear among healthcare professionals that they could be imprisoned for making inadvertent mistakes, and it may discourage them from coming forward when they do. This is extraordinarily dangerous and would set a harmful precedent, making it even harder to do this critical work. We need to encourage young people to become healthcare professionals. Not scare them away.

Justice does not include incarcerating RaDonda Vaught. It is crucial to our healthcare system that we support nurses, not lock them up. Please join us and so many others in calling for RaDonda to receive clemency.