Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Nurse reprimanded and disqualified for giving potentially fatal morphine dose to family friend
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Nurse reprimanded and disqualified for giving potentially fatal morphine dose to family friend

18 Jan 2024

A Brisbane enrolled nurse who administered a dose of morphine to an elderly family friend who later died will spend a further two years out of the profession after being found guilty of professional misconduct.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) this month found Maura Kathryn Bannister breached the fundamental ethical obligation of nurses when in July 2014 she administered a dose of oral morphine which exceeded the dosage prescribed. At the time, Ms Bannister had not completed medication administration education .

The elderly woman was receiving palliative care but was not a patient of Ms Bannister.  

Ms Bannister’s registration expired in May 2015 and she has remained unregistered since. A coronial inquest was carried out in December 2016, following which, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) filed its proceedings with the tribunal.

On 10 March 2021, the tribunal found Ms Bannister:

  • acted in contravention of her registration in administering the morphine
  • displayed a culpable disregard for the life, safety or health of the deceased by acting as she did; and
  • made comments the following day to colleagues intimating that she had assisted in the death of an elderly person through the administration of morphine. 

The tribunal noted that Ms Bannister, in administering medication in contravention of her registration, failed to ‘minimize the risk of harm from the drug, and she did not value a culture of safety in health care, or act to maintain the community’s trust and confidence in the nursing profession’, 

The tribunal considered there is ‘an important difference between easing the passing, and speeding the passing’ and that Ms Bannister was obliged ‘to comply with the law as it stood at the time, and her private views as to what the law should be were irrelevant.’ 

She was found to have engaged in professional misconduct and was reprimanded and disqualified for applying for registration for two years as well as prohibited from providing any health service in this period.  While the Board had requested a longer disqualification period, the tribunal took into account that Ms Bannister has been away from nursing for six and a half years, and a preclusion of a further two years will equate to at least eight and a half years away from the profession. It was also noted that if she was to reapply in the future, she would also need to undergo significant retraining. 

Page reviewed 18/01/2024