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Medford nurse charged with 44 counts of assault in alleged Asante drug diversion

Prosecutors said they don’t have evidence to support homicide charges against the nurse accused of replacing patient fentanyl with tap water
A picture of Rogue Regional Medical Center in 2007. At the time it was known as Rogue Valley Medical Center. | BY NICKNELSON/ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
June 13, 2024

Medford police have arrested nurse Dani Marie Schofield on suspicion of repeatedly replacing fentanyl with tap water at a Medford hospital and harming 44 patients, some of whom reportedly died. 

Police announced Schofield’s arrest Thursday after a seven-month-long investigation that followed media reports of calls made by Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center staff to families of patients who’d died from infections, telling them a nurse’s theft of the opioid painkiller was to blame. 

Schofield, 36, now faces 44 counts of felony second-degree assault, one for each of the patients she allegedly harmed with the drug diversion. 

Contacted by Oggys Online on Jan. 5, Schofield denied wrongdoing in an interview, saying, “The truth will, I’m sure, come out.”

Schofield is lodged in the Jackson County Jail and will be arraigned Friday afternoon. 

The arrest provides the first public glimpse of the scope of the alleged drug diversion that was first reported in late December. Previously, authorities in the southern Oregon city of about 85,500 were tight-lipped on their investigation.

According to the police department’s press release, detectives reviewed large volumes of hospital records and interviewed nearly 100 people, including doctors, nurses, patients and others affected. 

“Based on records and interviews, investigators were able to determine that ICU nurse Schofield had access to each of these victims,” reads the statement. “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.”

The charges “represent the highest level of charge the evidence can support in this case,” according to a press release from the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. Charges such as murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide require proof that a defendant’s actions specifically caused  the death of the victim. 

“Investigators in this case consulted with multiple medical experts who were unanimous that they could not conclude that any of the patient deaths were directly attributed to the infections,” according to the statement, which noted that the grand jury heard from 21 witnesses and was presented with other evidence over the course of eight hours before approving the indictment. 

Asante officials approached the Medford Police Department in December 2023 after the health system conducted an internal investigation into the increased infections, according to the statement. The internal investigation found that all the infections were isolated to patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit and took place between July 2022 and July 2023, when Schofield left the hospital. 

After completing the investigation, police handed it off to Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert, whose office convened a grand jury to review the case on Wednesday. The grand jury agreed to indict Schofield on the 44 second-degree assault charges.

The offense is covered by Measure 11 and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and 10 months.

“The 44 charges reflect the total amount of patients that this investigation revealed to have been affected by Schofield’s criminal actions,” reads the statement. 

The indictment names each alleged victim, but does not include Horace Earl Wilson, a 65-year-old who died from an infection after being admitted to the hospital in 2022 for a fall-related injury. Wilson’s estate filed an $11.5 million lawsuit against Asante and Schofield, who has denied wrongdoing in court filings. 

Attorneys representing patients and families affected by the alleged drug diversion have indicated that additional civil lawsuits are forthcoming. 

One of those attorneys, David DeVilleneuve, told Oggys Online that the details of the arrest are consistent with “the evidence that we’ve developed on our own separate from police.” He said that includes expert reviews that found “lots of discrepancies” in patient medication records.

The failure to charge something more serious than assault might seem surprising, he said, but the charge makes sense because persuading a jury of a stronger link to a patient’s death could be challenging. Many patients were in intensive care or had conditions in which survival was unlikely, he said.

DeVilleneuve said he expects to begin filing lawsuits within the coming month on behalf of as many as 20 patients or their families. He said the cases he is handling include roughly a half a dozen in which the patient died. 

“We’re looking forward to seeing additional information that the police have developed,” he added. “They have access to Asante personnel that we don't have.”

Schofield was issued her Oregon registered nurse license in 2015. Records show that she agreed in November 2023 to temporarily give up her license pending the completion of an investigation. In the January interview with Oggys Online, she said she had been “cooperative” with the investigation and had “plenty of information” to back up why she “quit” her job at Asante.

Nursing board spokesperson told Oggys Online in an email that no final orders have been issued regarding Schofield. 

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jthomasreports