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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Former nurse at Moses Lake hospital pleads guilty to stealing, using morphine doses

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 6, 2021

A Moses Lake woman has pleaded guilty to tampering with doses of morphine to take the drug for herself while working as a nurse at Confluence Health in Moses Lake, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington announced Monday.

Esther Rae Tuller, 40, worked as a state-registered nurse at Confluence Health from August 2019 to April 2020. During that period, Tuller used syringes to remove morphine from at least 17 vials, replacing the amounts removed with a saline solution – essentially salt dissolved in water – and attempted to glue the caps back onto the vials, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said at least one Confluence Health patient who was prescribed morphine remained in “excruciating pain” upon receiving only saline instead of the prescribed morphine during a trip to the emergency room.

“While Ms. Tuller’s addiction to opioids is both tragic and far too common, her decision to take advantage of her access to medical-grade morphine was an egregious breach of trust,” U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref said in a statement. It is deeply troubling that she compounded her misconduct by secretly replacing that morphine with saline in vials that she knew would be distributed to patients.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian accepted Tuller’s guilty plea and scheduled her for sentencing on the drug tampering charge March 17 in Spokane. Prosecutors said she faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of post-release supervision.

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