Spencer Sullivan: His Body a Prison
He was once the handsome entrepreneur in the fading newspaper article on his bedroom wall – a former nurse running a temporary nurse agency.
Today Spencer Sullivan, 48, spends his days in a wheelchair at his Laguna Hills home. In 2001, after neck surgery at UC San Francisco Medical Center, two doctors gave similar orders for powerful medications. Instead of questioning the duplication, a nurse gave Sullivan all of the drugs, then didn't check on him as required, state records allege. After suffering a brain injury, Sullivan was rendered quadriplegic.
In the chaotic months that followed, his brother Shane filed a complaint with the state Board of Registered Nursing. The family sued the hospital and eventually settled for $6 million. The case was again reported to the nursing board in 2005, this time by insurers, who attributed $2.4 million of the settlement to temporary nurse Rose McKenzie's actions.
"It's shocking how they never contact you. They never say the nurse was disciplined – nothing," said Sullivan's mother, Carol. "It just makes you wonder, is she out there somewhere taking her job so lightly?"
In April 2008 – 6 1/2 years after the brain injury – the board filed an accusation against McKenzie. She did not respond, and her license was revoked. She's now a nurse in Canada.
"It makes me sad what she did to me," Spencer Sullivan said. "It's like being in jail."
California has failed to protect patients from nurses who are incompetent and dangerous.
The Story So Far
In California, nurses accused of serious wrongdoing have often been left free to practice for years while their cases were being investigated—with patients unaware of the danger.
The board that oversees the state’s registered nurses has taken more than three years, on average, to discipline nurses with histories of drug abuse, negligence, incompetence and violence.