The pharmacist accused of accidentally drugging three newborns with morphine at Anne Arundel Medical Center goes on trial today on charges of reckless endangerment and practicing without a license.
"She didn't know it. She didn't plan it. This isn't a crime," said T. Joseph Touhey, attorney for Susan E. Kron.
The state says that on Jan. 31, Ms. Kron inadvertently drugged the newborns by filling at least six syringes bound for the critical-care nursery with morphine instead of heparin, a solution used to flush intravenous tubes.
The babies were briefly placed on ventilators after suffering breathing problems and sent home shortly after the incident.
A subsequent investigation revealed that Ms. Kron's license to practice pharmacy in Maryland expired four months before the incident.
Reckless endangerment carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The licensing charge carries a maximum one-year sentence and a $1,000 fine.
Ms. Kron, 46, will argue that she never filled any syringes with morphine, said Mr. Touhey, adding that the state doesn't have any evidence such as drug-laced syringes to prove Ms. Kron drugged the newborns by accident or on purpose.
Michael Bergeson, an assistant state's attorney who will prosecute the case, would not comment yesterday.
Mr. Touhey said he expects Mr. Bergeson to drop the reckless endangerment charge. And, he said, any recommendation of jail time for the licensing charge would be so "idiotic I'd have to throw my shoe at [Mr. Bergeson] across the courtroom."
Ms. Kron, who lives in Crofton, has been out of work since the hospital fired her in February. She had worked at the Annapolis hospital since 1986, the last two years on the night shift.
Since the incident, the hospital has worked to improve its safety measures. This week, medical center staff reviewed safety policies with officials from the Joint Commission on Accreditation, a national group that certifies most of the country's hospitals.
The commission put the hospital on probation after the incident, placing it in a category shared by 1 percent of the nation's 5,300 hospitals.
On Aug. 11, the commission will check to make sure the corrections in safety measures have been implemented.
If the changes outlined in the approved plan are not implemented, the hospital risks losing its accreditation, jeopardizing its reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare.
Hospital administrators say they were wrongly penalized by the association and say appropriate safety measures were in place days after the incident.
The hospital started an internal system to track pharmacy rTC licenses, tightened storage guidelines for neonatal medications and solutions, locked narcotic solutions in separate refrigerators, and began an orientation and continuing competency program for new pharmacists.