Fatal Feb. crash caused by nurse's morphine use

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CUMBERLAND — Maine State Police say a driver who died in a February car accident on Interstate 295 had an extremely high level of morphine in her blood.

After an investigation into the crash, driver Rosalie Muce, 32, of Portland, was found to have had near-lethal levels of morphine in her system. Levels were far higher than recent morphine-related deaths in Maine, Trooper Marvin Hinkley said, suggesting Muce had developed a tolerance to the drug over time.

Muce, a home care nurse who administered the narcotic to many of her patients, was not prescribed the drug. Hinkley said police concluded she had been “siphoning off morphine from patients” and do not suspect any other person or her employer, VNA Home Health & Hospice of South Portland, was at fault in her use or possession of the drug.

On Feb. 27, a driver on Interstate 295 in Cumberland reported that a woman was driving erratically. While the caller was on the line, Muce’s vehicle rear-ended a van and spun into the snow-covered median.

Muce, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from her vehicle and killed when her vehicle rolled on top of her, Hinkley said. The van’s driver, Larry Milligan, of Buxton, was not injured.