Comparing Apples to Oranges: Pharmacist Eric Cropp & Registered Nurse Anne Mitchell

     On Tuesday, February 16, 2010, JParadisi RN’s Blog had the most site hits since its debut in January, 2009. The day is notable, because the blog’s post Whistle Blowers & Patient Advocates: When the Nurse Stands Alone was mentioned by Shawn Kennedy on the AJN blog, Off the Charts.  I assumed the two events were connected. Imagine my surprise: they are not. The stats for JParadisi RN’s Blog show that the most popular post on February 16 was an older post:  Not a Wonderful Life: No George Bailey for Pharmacist Eric Cropp or His Patient. For the entire week that post and the posts with updates about Eric Cropp were the most viewed on my blog.

     Eric Cropp served 6 months of imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter in the death of 2 year-old Emily Jerry. Emily Jerry died when she received a chemotherapy solution containing a lethal dose of sodium chloride mixed by a pharmacy technician at the hospital where Eric was the supervising pharmacist. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy stripped Eric of his license prior to his conviction.  Now a convicted felon, he will never practice pharmacy again.

     Why the renewed interest in the Eric Cropp case, during the immediate aftermath of the Anne Mitchell trial? Anne Mitchell, RN was publicly supported by the Texas Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association. The TNA donated funds for Mitchell’s legal defense, and the Texas Medical Board acknowledged Mitchell’s duty as a patient safety advocate. Mitchell was found not guilty. There were no fatalities in the Anne Mitchell case. The most obvious difference drawn from a comparison of the two trials is that a child’s death initiated the criminal charges against Eric Cropp. Perhaps this explains why pharmacist professional associations appear silent on the matter. Searching  two prominent organizations websites with the keywords “Eric Cropp” I found only one article about the case on one site, and none on the other. Granted, defending a person accountable for the accidental death of a toddler creates an unpopular challenge in public relations. 

     Physicians are familiar with lawsuits involving the death of patients.  It is rare for a doctor to go to prison or be stripped of his or her license in such a case.  Eric Cropp was convicted of criminal charges in the absence of public support, except for  Michael Cohen of ISMP.  Whether this is right or wrong is a matter of opinion.

     The  pharmacy profession lost an opportunity to speak about patient safety systems, staffing issues, medication compounding practices, pharmacist to technician ratios, and other problems similar to those nurses have brought to public attention for years.  In contrast, the TNA, and ANA used Anne Mitchell’s trial to educate the non-medical public about the patient safety advocate role of nurses. It is important to remember that the non-medical public is unfamiliar with common hospital practices. In my opinion, there is an expectation for professional organizations to educate the public on the scope of practice of its members. It is unfortunate that this opportunity was missed during the Eric Cropp trial. 

     Did a lack of support and public education lead to the setting of  a disturbing  precedent: the criminalization of medication errors? (Will the Criminalization of Medication Errors Make Patients Safer in Ohio?).           

     Eric Cropp was released from jail on February 15, 2010, and this explains the increased traffic to JParadisi RN’s Blog on February 16, in the aftermath of the Anne Mitchell case. It was only a coincidence. Whether or not pharmacists compare the two very different outcomes of these trials, I do not know.

      I am married to a pharmacist.  However, for most of my career, I was a pediatric intensive care nurse dedicated to saving the lives of children like Emily Jerry. I saw firsthand families devastated from losing a child under less unusual circumstances. The opinions expressed in this post do not diminish my sympathy or empathy for the family of Emily Jerry.

8 thoughts on “Comparing Apples to Oranges: Pharmacist Eric Cropp & Registered Nurse Anne Mitchell

  1. There is an injustice for Eric Cropp. He should never went to jail from the beginning. We’re human and YES we does make mistakes. I am definitely support Eric and Michael. It’s not going to make a difference if we put an INNOCENT man to jail for a mistake from a pharmacy technician. It’s not a nurse fault nor a pharmacist. What about the pharmacy technician? Medication errors will be increase due to this incidence. I bet people will not report medication errors because they will worry about JAIL time or something. This incidence will makes the situation more worst. Majority of the people join the medical fields because they want to SAVE life. People always happy when we save a life BUT the public will point the finger to us when there is death occur. I am really sorry for the Emily’s family. However, it does not make a difference if Eric went to jail. This only give a wrong message to the medical professions. ERIC SHOULD NOT BE CHARGED….WE’RE HUMAN! AND MISTAKES DOES HAPPENS EVERYDAY

  2. “Eric Cropp was convicted of criminal charges in the absence of public support, except for Michael Cohen of ISMP. Whether this is right or wrong is a matter of opinion.”….I AM A CITIZEN SUPPORTING ERIC AND MICHAEL. HAVE ANYONE EVERY THOUGHT PEOPLE WILL DIE MORE IF WE DON’T HAVE DOCTORS, PHARMACIST, NURSES, AND ETC….THEY’RE HERE TO HELP OTHERS NOT INTENTIONALLY WANT TO KILL A CHILD.

  3. You make a good point about health care workers worrying if they might be convicted of a crime if they report a medication error, and how that makes an unsafe environment for the patients the laws intend to protect.

  4. Pingback: Want to be the Next Eric Cropp? We’re Taking Volunteers « JParadisi RN's Blog

  5. We are all missing the most important issue here. WHY ARE WE ALLOW A TECHNICIAN INSTEAD OF A PHARMACIST TO COMPOUND DRUG??!!!! IT SHOULD BE AGAINST THE LAW FOR ANY NON LICENSED PHARMACIST TO COMPOUND DRUG..ESPECIALLY IV..FOR PATIENTS. I am a 15 years licensed pharmacist working in the hospital. I always felt very angry whenever they rotate me to go work in the IV room instead of outpatient clinic. They hired one pharmacist and 3 technicians and that one pharmacist are responsible in checking the work of the technicians. How am I going to check??? The technicians can put 2 banana juice into the iv bag and I wouldn’t be able to check. I can only check the bag visually and rely on the technician being competent enough to inject the right thing and right amount…which he claimed…into the bag. IT IS SO SCARY!!!!! The technician is not responsible..only I am responsible because I supposed to be CHECKING..a licensed pharmacist. And I am as a pharmacist are not suppose to compound any drug because THERE IS NO TIME!!! IT IS SO BUSY IN THE PHARMACY…SIX HUNDRED ORDERS..AND NON STOP PHONE CALLS FROM THREE PHONES INQUIRING PHARMACIST FOR DRUG INFORMATIONS…THAT IS WHY THE HOSPITAL HIRED 3 TECHS TO HELP ME. I AM SUPPOSE TO CHECK THEIR WORK.

    I think the US government and management of the health care should be sued for running our healtcare system like this. They want to spend less money cutting cost on hiring staff. Replacing pharmacist with non licensed people called technicians. A licensed technician is not equal to a licensed pharmacist.
    This is what our government is doing.

  6. You bring up valid points. Nurses have complained about how short staffing affects patient safety for years. I don’t think the public is as well informed about budget-cut staffing issues in other hospital departments such as pharmacy. I have heard non-medical people remark they didn’t realize that pharmacists work in hospitals. They never stopped to think where the medications they receive while hospitalized come from. As a nurse, I depend on the medications I infuse into patients to be mixed safely and correctly. I doubt you are alone in your feelings.

  7. Uneducated people do not belong in the pharmacy….ever.. and the Boards of Pharmacy are to blame. They cover up these mistakes until they cant, and then blame the pharmacist. It is the duty and role of the boards to keep the patient population safe, but politics is everything and money buys the rubber stamp to allow pharmacies to enlave the pharmacist at the expense of the community. Its disgusting and I would love to fire them all, or better yet, make them work the rest of their lives with “technicians.”

  8. I realize this post is really old, but I am a recent graduate of a pharmacy technician training program, as well as a recent recipient of my CPhT certification. I had never heard of this case before my classes started. I am incredibly interested in understanding why the technician who mixed the chemo drugs was not charged and was allowed to practice her skill (or lack there-of) after this incident. I do not believe that Mr. Cropp should’ve been held liable as there were so many extenuating circumstances leading up to this tragedy. My hope is that all of the work Mr. Cropp is now putting in towards awareness and education will pay off with stricter regulations for both pharmacies and techs. There is no way a tech should ever be allowed to mix any drug without proper training and credentials.

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