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16 Nurses Charged With Keeping Patients’ Drugs for Themselves

United Press International

Sixteen nurses were charged Thursday with keeping patients’ painkilling drugs for their own use and recklessly treating patients.

Most of the cases involved nurses who are accused of withholding treatments of the painkiller Demerol from their patients and keeping the drug for themselves, said James Zagel, director of the Illinois State Police.

Four of the nurses were taken into custody Thursday morning, and authorities were seeking the others, he said.

Similar to Morphine

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Demerol is a synthetic drug similar to morphine given to patients with chronic pain, Zagel said. Drug abusers use it to obtain a euphoric state, he said.

In some instances, the nurses allegedly kept the Demerol and replaced the patient’s injection with water.

In one case, a nurse who was treating a patient at home allegedly combined three doses of a drug in one injection so that he would not have to go back to the home three times.

Eleven of the nurses worked at hospitals in Cook County, and the rest worked in DuPage, Lake, Sangamon and Macon counties.

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All were fired from their jobs, Zagel said. He would not disclose what hospitals were involved.

‘Violated Public Trust’

“These arrests are part of a continuing effort . . . to remove from the medical profession those practitioners who have violated the public trust by posing life-threatening dangers to patients seeking health care,” Zagel said at a news conference.

A key to the success of the investigation was a year-old reporting system that requires health care agencies to tell the Department of Registration and Education of any employees who are abusing drugs, Zagel said.

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When asked why authorities waited six months to file all the charges at once, Zagel said they wanted to give the investigation wider publicity.

“We wanted some impact. We want people to know that we are engaged in this effort. If we had charged them one at a time, there would have been a relative lack of interest,” he said.


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