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Massachusetts Nurse Pleads Guilty To Tampering With Liquid Morphine

Medical misconduct takes on many forms. Also known as malpractice, the act of a medical professional neglecting to take appropriate action to treat a patient is a serious offense. A medical practitioner who provides poor treatment that leads to harm, injury or death is liable to face serious repercussions at the hands of the law. Gwen Rider has discovered this first hand.

As the District of Massachusetts branch of the United States Department of Justice reports, the Northborough-based registered nurse has pleaded guilty to a tampering charge. Last week, Rider was in a Worcester federal court entering her guilty plea. She admitted to tampering with liquid morphine that was prescribed to a nursing home resident in her care.

Morphine is used to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Considered an opiate, the drug works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. Morphine can be taken as a liquid solution or an extended-release tablet. Regardless of its form, it is imperative that patients take their correct doses. Especially when it is abused or used over prolonged periods of time, morphine can be habit forming.

More alarmingly, morphine has been known to cause either serious or life-threatening breathing problems. This is especially true during the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment or any time a dose is increased.The risk of developing breathing problems is higher for older adults and those who are weakened or malnourished due to disease.

Officially, Rider pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with a consumer product.

She also pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and deception. Arrested in April of 2021, the 42 year-old was employed by a Worcester County nursing home. The illegal act, in question, took place between approximately11:00 p.m. on November 6, 2020 and 7:00 a.m. the following morning.

“Rider was on duty in a unit specializing in care for residents suffering from dementia,” explains the DoJ report, “During her shift and while entrusted with the care of a resident suffering from dementia, Rider tampered with a bottle of morphine sulfate prescribed to the patient by removing some of the morphine and adding water to the remaining supply.”

The report confirms that morphine sulfate is a Schedule II controlled substance under federal law. It also notes that a nurse on a subsequent shift administered the adulterated morphine to a patient before the tampering was discovered.

Rider faces a possible 10-year prison term.

As the DoJ informs, the charge of tampering with a consumer product provides for a sentence up to 10 years in prison. Rider also faces up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. “The charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and deception provides for a sentence of up to four years in prison, up to one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000,” continues the report.

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