A former hospital technician in Georgia has been sentenced to up to six months behind bars for editing mammogram results so that 1,289 patients were given false negatives. Ten of those women in fact tested positive, and two of them have since died.
Rachael Michelle Rapraeger, 33, of Macon, Georgia pleaded guilty to ten counts of reckless conduct and a single count of computer forgery after telling patients at Perry Hospital that their mammogram results were negative when in fact a doctor had never examined them.
“You played Russian roulette with the lives of essentially a thousand women in this community,” Houston County Superior Judge Katherine Lumsden told Rapraeger in court Tuesday, as quoted by WMAZ-TV in Georgia.
Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Dan Bibler told reporters that Rapraeger had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed her mind when offered a plea deal that would ensure a jury did not decide her fate. She had “personal issues that caused her to be disinterested in her job,” Bibler said, and manipulated the test results to catch up on her work.
“I think it’s a fair sentence based on what happened and based on her cooperation in this case,” he added.
Sharon Holmes was among the victims whose lives Rapraeger put at risk. Holmes was told in 2009 that her test was negative, only to learn two months later that not only did she have cancer, but it had spread to her lymph nodes.
“You could have made a different decision and my family and I would not be living this nightmare,” Holmes said to Rapraeger in court this week. “If I’m living a sentence of having cancer then you should live a sentence behind bars.”
Holmes, unlike two of the 1,289 women who did not find their disease in time, is lucky enough to have her cancer in remission, she told reporters after the sentencing hearing.
“Just letting her know what she’s done by not following the rules or her job like she’s supposed to be doing,” she said of speaking in court. “I’m not a name on a piece of paper, I’m a person, and I think she will remember me.”
Rapraeger will also serve 10 years of probation after she’s released and will be forced to pay a $12,500 fine. She will not be permitted to work in health care during her probation. The felony will be stricken from her record as long as she does not “violate the terms and conditions of the sentence,” attorney Bibler said.
Defense attorney Floyd Buford said the prosecution offered Rapraeger the deal because there was little evidence to present at a trial, adding that Rapraeger was not properly supervised at work.
“She just could not keep up with her workload and when faced with that, she started doing what she did not making money but trying to make her hospital employer happy, nothing realizing what the consequences would be,” Buford told WMAZ-TV. “She’s going to be paying a price, but even without that she’s very remorseful.”
Convicts sentenced to prison time are traditionally taken directly to prison from their sentencing hearing. However, Judge Lumsden told Rapraeger that she would be free for at least another 48 hours and potentially as long as for weeks while the state waits for an available space at a probation detention center.