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Ex-nurse who infected patients with Hepatitis C sentenced to federal prison

Photo: Weber County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — In the words of Judge Dee Benson, who sentenced ex-nurse Elet Neilson to five years in federal prison on Monday at the US District Court in downtown Salt Lake City, “This is not a complicated case. It’s a sad case.”

Neilson was working as an emergency room nurse at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden when she began stealing morphine. Over a two month period in 2013 and 2014, she would inject the drug then use the same needle to administer the rest of the dose to patients.

Thousands of patients had to be screened once Neilsen’s actions were uncovered, including at a Davis County hospital where she had also worked. At least seven people were infected with Hepatitis C, which the nurse did not know she had.

In court, several victims shared their stories of the continual health and mental challenges that they face. Many also say their family members are subjected to embarrassing questions because they live with someone who has Hepatitis C.

The man identified as “Patient Zero” told Judge Benson that he cannot donate blood to his three-year-old granddaughter who has cancer because he was infected.

Neilson tearfully apologized to her victims, saying she was “repulsed” by her behavior.

“My integrity and good name was stripped by none other than myself,” Neilson said.

She also revealed that Patient Zero’s family goes to her ward, and she sees them every Sunday at church.

Neilson had started using morphine after going through a divorce, losing her home, and becoming a single mother to two children, one with special needs.

US Attorney John Huber said outside the court that addiction touches many people in Utah, but that did not excuse her actions.

“There are so many of us that want to help, and we have compassion for them. We have sympathy for them. But you can not make these selfish, unilateral decisions that affect the rest of us,” Huber said.

Neilson was also given two years of supervised release once her prison term ends and told to enroll in drug and optional mental health counseling.