Hospice worker charged with distributing deceased patients' meds
HOLLADAY — The facility manager of a hospice center has been charged with administering medications from deceased patients to other residents.
Cheryl Uzzell, 70, was charged in 3rd District Court with production of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony; and distribution of controlled substance, a third-degree felony. Uzzell is accused of using medications prescribed for one person and giving them to another.
Police were alerted to what was allegedly happening at Alta Ridge Assisted Living, 1009 E. Murray-Holladay Road, through anonymous complaints to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Thursday it was unknown how many patients Uzzell allegedly administered drugs to, though she claimed it "did not happen very often," according to the charges. As of Thursday, investigators had not identified any patients who had became ill or suffered side-effects because of the medication.
But Gill compared what Uzzell was believed to be doing to someone handing out a peanut butter sandwich without knowing if that person has a peanut allergy.
"The concern here was that you have someone who is dispensing it to third parities who are not prescribed that, you don't know what reactions they may have. Whatever the intentions might be in this, the concern here is you don't know how they're going to react, you don't know what their medical history is, you don't know what's going to happen as a result of that," he said. "People need to recognize these rules are there for a reason."
A motive for Uzzell's actions was unknown Thursday.
Investigators said drugs such as morphine and fentanyl were found in a filing cabinet. They were prescribed for patients who had been there between May and September of 2012 but had passed away. Police said they also found documents that claimed those drugs had been certified as being destroyed.
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