A federal judge gave a Tewksbury nurse 54 months in prison for diluting morphine for a woman in hospice care before her death, calling the offense a “despicable crime.”
“I think you’re a terrible nurse,” senior Judge Mark Wolf told Lauren Perrin, 48, at her sentencing Wednesday at U.S. District Court. “You committed a really despicable crime.”
Perrin pleaded guilty in September to a single charge of tampering with a consumer product for diluting an 88-year-old woman’s morphine dosages on three occasions before the patient died in November 2017 at Maplewood Care and Rehabilitation in Amesbury.
Five milligram morphine dosages for the woman were diluted with water and cough syrup, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elysa Wan said. The victim, diagnosed with dementia, was experiencing frequent seizures, had a leg fracture, shingles and a viral infection, authorities added.
Court filings state the diluted vials contained 19% to 29% of the declared concentration of morphine. Other doses not administered had under 4% concentration, records state.
Perrin, who requested a sentence of 20 months and two years of supervised release with treatment, told Wolf she had an addiction problem after being prescribed opiates after a previous surgery, and was a “great nurse for a long time.”
Wolf said Perrin appeared to lack understanding of the severity of the crime. Wan suggested a sentence of 63 months in prison.
“I think based on what you said that you still don’t get it,” Wolf said.
Perrin hugged a woman in the courtroom after the hearing. Her attorney, Mark McNally, declined to comment.
Wan said prosecutors have seen an uptick in cases of nurses taking drugs intended for patients, and four cases are pending in the Massachusetts federal court system.
Kathleen Noftle, also of Tewksbury, pleaded not guilty last month in federal court to diluting morphine doses to veterans in hospice care at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Bedford.
One patient, whose wristband Noftle allegedly scanned to give the appearance that a proper dose of morphine was administered, was found in distress 30 minutes after Noftle’s shift ended and died the next day in 2017, feds allege.
In September, Bay State lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton said they would probe Noftle’s case and the Bedford VA following another case in which a nurse played video games while a Vietnam veteran died in 2016.
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