EDWARDSVILLE — A registered nurse - Amy L. Melchert - was sentenced to a five-year prison sentence for recklessly causing the overdose death of her mother-in-law who was in hospice care.
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Madison County State's Attorney Thomas A. Haine made the announcement on Friday.
Melchert, 51, of Wood River, entered a guilty plea in April to involuntary manslaughter, which has a range of punishment from five years in prison. At a sentencing hearing Thursday, she received the maximum five-year prison term for recklessly and without lawful justification administering a non-prescribed dose of morphine that caused the overdose and death of her mother-in-law, 85-year-old Wilma Melchert. Wilma was under home-based hospice care at the time.
“This was a truly tragic case all around, and our heart goes out to the family and friends of Wilma,” Haine said. “All those who are especially vulnerable due to health problems need to be reassured that those trusted to care for them have a strict legal obligation to treat them with the utmost care and concern. What happened in this case was a serious breach of that trust, and therefore, a serious crime.”
Wilma had been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and dementia. According to a medical certification for her admission to hospice care, her life expectancy was six months or less. At the sentencing hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Kemper and Assistant State’s Attorney Gina McNabnay presented evidence indicating that Amy had a desire to hasten Wilma's death.
The prosecutors presented records of text messages Amy sent to others regarding an upcoming vacation and her aversion to the possibility of having to accommodate other relatives in her home for an extended period.
Kemper argued that Amy was “far more concerned” about the vacation and the presence of others in her home, rather than the comfort and care of Wilma. Forensic evidence indicated the level of morphine in Wilma’s blood was several times higher than the prescribed level. Wood River Police conducted an investigation because of a discrepancy in the amount of unused medication prescribed for Wilma.
The cause of death was determined to be a morphine overdose.
“This case involved highly scientific evidence,” Haine said. “I commend Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells, the entire Wood River Police Department, the Madison County Coroner’s Office and the prosecution team. Their diligent work and their expertise resulted in this conviction and sentence.”
Associate Judge Neil Schroeder issued the sentence. The defense asked for a sentence of probation, citing the defendant’s lack of criminal history. Amy Melchert’s nursing license has been suspended by a state licensure board. Haine said prosecutors will make certain the licensure board is informed of the conviction and sentence, to ensure that her license is permanently revoked.
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