Emergency Physicians Wary of Unintended Consequences from Criminal Prosecution of Medical Errors

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In response to the March 2022 criminal conviction of a former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) put forth the following statement:

“ACEP strongly supports the culture of safety in medicine and efforts to reduce, prevent and disclose medical errors. However, the recent criminal prosecution of medical errors sets a worrisome precedent.

“Every medical error is regrettable and emergency physicians are trained to operate and thrive in complex and pressure-packed scenarios. Still, all clinicians are human, and mistakes can happen. Emergency departments that successfully embrace a culture of safety are those that encourage every clinician to report, assess, and learn from an error. The threat of criminal prosecution can undermine these efforts.

“Physicians and administrators can also work together to limit errors by reducing the factors that contribute to them. These efforts should include prioritizing fully resourced, sufficiently staffed, and safe work environments for emergency physicians and care teams.

“Every health care professional should be able to rely on their institution to support an environment where efforts to improve patient safety constructively focus on training, education and continuous improvement, rather than criminal punitive action.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education, and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 40,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million people they treat on an annual basis. For more information, visit and

Contact: Steve Arnoff | | Twitter @EmergencyDocs