Photo: Upupa4me (Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0))

In an explosive new lawsuit this week, nurses at a New Jersey hospital have been accused by one of their own of drugging patients with the drowsy medication Benadryl to avoid work. The plaintiff, Patricia Moran, is suing her employer, the Monmouth Medical Center, for having allegedly punished her after she spoke out about the practice.

According to the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey Monmouth County this Wednesday, Moran had been a nurse at the hospital for over 30 years, most recently working at the hospital’s adult psychiatric unit.

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In March, she allegedly discovered that several nurses on her floor had “intentionally disregarded patient safety standards” by surreptitiously dosing their patients with diphenhydramine, an antihistamine known by the brand name Benadryl. Benadryl is most often taken to relieve allergy symptoms, as well as to counteract the side-effects from psychiatric medication, but it commonly induces sleepiness as well. Allegedly, the nurses fed patients Benadryl to lighten “their workload” during the overnight shift, and they went as far as to falsify medical chart records to hide their dosing, according to Moran.

Moran claims that after she reported what she found to her superiors, she was immediately punished by having her work shifts dramatically reduced. She goes to allege that she was later transferred to the pediatric psychiatric unit, despite having no relevant training and little experience. Finally, following complaints over her treatment by the hospital, Moran says she was suspended with no pay from July to October 2019. At this point, she is still employed by the hospital.

“Despite more than 30 years of excellent performance with no prior history of written warnings or reprimands, Plaintiff was suddenly on the chopping block for doing precisely what she was instructed to do by the hospital,” the complaint reads.

The complaint, filed under New Jersey’s whistleblower law, names Monmouth Medical Center along with several of Moran’s superiors and nearly a dozen anonymous employees and business entities connected to the hospital as co-defendants.

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Monmonth, for its part, is staying mum.

“Monmouth Medical Center is fully committed to providing a safe environment for our patients, visitors and staff. Per our policy, we are unable to comment on any individual employee or patient matter,” the hospital said in a statement to NJ.com.

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