CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A nurse anesthetist from Charles City is going to prison for secretly tampering with hospital drugs.
Christopher Scott West, 46, pleaded guilty to tampering with a consumer product and acquiring and attempting to acquire a controlled substance by means of misrepresentation, fraud, deception, and subterfuge. Prosecutors say that between February and September 2018, West gain access to vials of fentanyl and sufentanil that were intended for patients but used them himself. Court documents state that West perforated tamper-proof paper around the vials, carefully opened the vials, replaced the drugs in the vials with saline, glued the vials shut, and placed the vials back in the hospital’s secure dispensaries in the surgery and birthing centers.
West was eventual arrested after a hospital visitor found him passed out in a public bathroom with a rubber tourniquet and vials of propofol, another anesthesia drug, in his coat pocket. The hospital says its investigation found tampered drug vials in both the surgery and birthing centers. West also admitted to giving three different kinds of anesthesia to a young patient in pain so he’d have drugs left over for his personal use. That patient suffered complications from surgery and required an extra day in the hospital and intermittent catheterizations.
In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa says a subsequent review of other procedures West allegedly performed revealed that West had purported to use fentanyl consistently in colonoscopies and cataract surgeries as early as December 2017. A prior review of West’s obstetrics patients in 2018 revealed that one in four of West’s spinal anesthesia patients received narcotics that were insufficient to reduce labor pain, such that the women giving birth also required general anesthesia.
West was sentenced Friday in Cedar Rapids Federal Court to two years and 10 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He must also pay a $15,000 fine and pay $31,998.34 in restitution to the Charles City hospital.
“Medical professionals have an obligation to care for some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” says United States Attorney Peter Deegan. “By his selfish actions, Mr. West took advantage of his trusted position at his local community hospital. He endangered the health and very lives of patients at the hospital. This sentence sends a clear message that such dangerous behavior will not be tolerated.”