DMC Nurse in Detroit Admits Tampering with Patients' Painkillers

August 30, 2022, 3:05 PM by  Allan Lengel

DMC Sinai Grace (File photo)

A former critical care nurse at DMC's Sinai Grace Hospital in northwest Detroit pled guilty Monday to tampering with patients' opioid medication.

Registered nurse Mary Cheatam, 42, of Ypsilanti admitted using syringes to remove the injectable painkiller hydromorphone (Dilaudid) from automated dispensers and replacing it with a benign saline solution, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Tuesday. She then used the painkiller, according to a plea agreement filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

Cheatem, whose responsibilities included administering pain meds, admitted stealing the narcotic and trying to hide the diversion from March to August 2020. She was indicted last August.

"The defendant knew that the adulterated containers of hydromophone she replaced at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital would be administered to patients in the critical unit to manage their pain levels and that the absence of pain medication may cause serious bodily injury," the agreement says.

“Patients entering a hospital must have confidence they will receive the treatment they are promised,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement. “Cheatham violated that trust and potentially exposed patients to unnecessary pain and suffering and must be held accountable.”

At sentencing Jan. 18, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

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