Former Oregon Nurse Pleads Not Guilty for Allegedly Replacing Patients’ Fentanyl With Tap Water

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
June 15, 2024US News
Former Oregon Nurse Pleads Not Guilty for Allegedly Replacing Patients’ Fentanyl With Tap Water
IVs in the ICU ward at a hospital in a file photo. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

A former nurse in Oregon has been arrested and charged for allegedly swapping out patients’ fentanyl medication for tap water. She pled not guilty at her arraignment on June 14.

Dani Marie Shofield, 36, was arrested after a seven-month-long investigation, according to a statement by the Medford Police Department (MPD).

Ms. Shofield faces 44 counts of second-degree assault, which police say reflect the total amount of patients who were affected by her criminal actions.

The former nurse worked in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Asante Rogue Medical Hospital in Medford until July 2023. Officials at the hospital alerted authorities about concerns over a growing number of infections among patients who were administered fentanyl pain medication through central line tubes inserted through their veins. If tap water, instead of fentanyl, directly enters a patient’s bloodstream, a waterborne pathogen could cause an infection.

“There was concern that Schofield had been diverting patients’ liquid fentanyl for her personal use and then replacing it with tap water, causing serious infections,” police stated.

Throughout the course of its monthslong investigation, detectives studied “volumes of hospital records” and interviewed nearly 100 people including doctors and nurses. They also met with patients, including many who were affected.

Investigators ultimately narrowed down the dates of known infections from July 2022 to July 2023. They also found out that the infections only impacted patients in the ICU.

MPD noted that it dedicated several full-time detectives to probing the case due to its magnitude and impact on victims. The final results of its probe were handed over to the Jackson County District Attorney’s office for review. The DA convened a grand jury on June 12 to review the case. The grand jury then returned a 44-count indictment on assault in the second degree, which is committed when a person “intentionally or knowingly causes serious physical injury to another,” according to law enforcement.

Police did not indicate how many patients under Ms. Schofield’s care died but noted that any patient deaths could not be linked to its specific investigation.

“After review of hospital records, patient records and pathology reports, MPD consulted with multiple medical experts, who each agreed that questionable deaths associated with this case could not be directly attributed to the infections,” according to a police statement.

Notably, the former ICU nurse faces a lawsuit that alleges Horace Wilson, 65, died after water was introduced to his bloodstream and caused a fatal infection. The patient was admitted to the hospital in January 2022 after suffering broken ribs and a lacerated spleen from falling off a ladder. The wrongful death lawsuit, which alleges negligence, was filed by the patient’s wife and his estate. It seeks $11.5 million and names Ms. Schofield and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center as defendants.

Ms. Schofield wrote on the patient’s chart that she administered fentanyl on “several dates,” starting January 2022, according to the complaint. But she replaced it with non-sterile tap water, “thus reintroducing new inoculums of the bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis into Horace Wilson’s bloodstream via his central line each time she administered the solution,” the complaint states.