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Nurse charged over morphine dose
Originally Posted At: http://www.indystar.com/print/articles/6/072994-5246-093.html Associated Press
September 10, 2003
MARION, Ind. --Seven months after the body of a nursing home patient was exhumed, prosecutors charged a former nurse with giving the man liquid morphine without a doctor's orders.
The Grant County coroner said toxicological tests could not determine if the morphine that nurse Peggy Couse allegedly administered in an oral syringe to 83-year-old Virgil Dailey caused his death just hours later.
"Scientifically, we can't prove that the amount of morphine that was in the system was a fatal dose," Coroner Mark Bardsley said Tuesday. "We can't say that it contributed to his death. We have an opinion, but scientifically it
can't be proven."
Couse, 41, of Jonesboro, was a third-shift nursing supervisor when Dailey, who had been suffering from pneumonia, died Jan. 4 at Twin City Healthcare, about 40 miles south of Fort Wayne. She was dismissed from her job during the investigation. The Indiana State Board of Nursing suspended her nursing license after she was arrested Feb. 15 on five counts of dealing controlled substances. Authorities accused her of handing out drugs to co-workers without a prescription.
None of the charges were connected with Dailey's death. Witnesses told police they saw Couse give Dailey liquid morphine hours before he died. County officials exhumed Dailey's body on Feb. 19 and tests found traces of morphine in Dailey's liver, court records said.
The presence of the drug was not enough to prove that it contributed to Dailey's death, however, authorities said.
"This was the most appropriate charge we believe the evidence will support in court," said county Prosecutor James Luttrull Jr.
Couse was arraigned Tuesday in Grant Superior Court on a sixth count of dealing in a controlled substance. If convicted of that charge, she could face up to 20 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000.
If convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms on all the charges against her. Couse could face up more than 80 years in prison. Her trial was scheduled for January.
Couse was free on $95,000 bond. A man who answered the phone at her home Tuesday night said she had no comment. The Associated Press also left a message seeking comment at the Marion office of her attorney, Shane Beal.