Auburn’s first-year pharmacy students to witness pharmacist’s mock criminal trial

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The new class of students in Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy will get a lesson in professional responsibility Friday, Aug. 16, when attorneys, faculty and staff present a criminal case based on a factual incident involving the death of a young child from a pharmacist’s error.

The Harrison School of Pharmacy will host a mock trial at the conclusion of its weeklong Foundations of Pharmacy orientation course, which introduces first-year students to the Doctor of Pharmacy program and professional responsibility of pharmacists. The trial will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the tiered auditorium of the Walker Building on campus.

The school will base this year’s trial on a criminal case in which an Ohio pharmacist was charged with criminally negligent homicide in 2006 following the death of a two-year-old patient.

“Mock trial is the best way to drive home the idea of professional responsibility,” said Lee Evans, dean of Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy. “It’s a lesson our student pharmacists need to practice now. They are a trusted medical professional from this point on.”

For Friday’s trial, pharmacy faculty, staff and upperclassmen will portray jurors, witnesses, the pharmacist and the victim’s family. Lee County Chief Assistant District Attorney Kisha Abercrombie will serve as the prosecuting attorney, while Ronda Lacey, a Harrison School of Pharmacy alumna and adjunct professor in pharmaceutical sciences in the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University, will serve as defense counsel.             Presiding over the proceedings will be Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III.

In 2006, a pharmacist was indicted by an Ohio grand jury following the death of a two-year-old patient who received an improperly mixed chemotherapy solution. A pharmacy technician made the solution with the incorrect percentage of sodium chloride but the pharmacist approved it without recognizing the lethal error.

The pharmacist and the case never went to trial. He agreed to a plea of no contest to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to serve six months in a county jail, six months of home detention, three years’ probation, 400 hours of community service and the payment of fines and court costs. Also, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy revoked his license to practice. Although the case was not tried, it prompted the state of Ohio to enact a law requiring standards for pharmacy technicians.

Unlike in a real court case, the jury in Friday’s mock trial will deliberate in open court.

“The deliberations are the most important part,” Evans said. “We want the jury to openly discuss how the principles of professional responsibility were violated by the defendant in order for the first-year students to understand the reasoning behind the jury’s verdict.”

On Saturday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m., the first-year students will participate in a White Coat Ceremony, during which they will be officially welcomed into the school. The ceremony will take place at the Julie and Hal Moore Center for Excellence at Auburn High School. Classes begin Wednesday, Aug. 21.

(Contributed by Lisa Borello.)

Contact: Brent Fox, Harrison School of Pharmacy, (334) 844-8348 (foxbren@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marking, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)