Nurse accused of tampering with painkillers at Detroit hospital's critical care unit

Former nurse Mary Cheatham was indicted Wednesday with one count of tampering with vials and syringes in a Detroit hospital containing the pain-relieving substance hydromorphone.

According to the indictment, Cheatham, formerly employed at the hospital, knew the vials and syringes were intended for patients requiring pain relief in their critical care unit. She replaced the hydromorphone with another liquid and returned the containers knowing they could be administered to patients in the hospital.

"Patients should know they are receiving proper treatment from those entrusted with their medical care," said Special Agent in Charge Lynda M. Burdelik, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Chicago Field Office. "We must hold medical personnel accountable when they take advantage of their unique position and tamper with medications their patients need, potentially exposing them to contaminated medical products."

According to the prosecutor, Cheatham altered the drugs at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital from approximately March to August 2020.

Cheatham was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond and conditions.

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.