The nurse linked to a recent hepatitis C scare at Puyallup's Good Samaritan Hospital admits taking leftover drugs from the hospital to aid in suicide attempts at her home, but she denies injecting patients with syringes she used on herself.
Cora Weberg, 31, spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday, following her arrest last week on suspicion of second-degree assault. She was released from the Pierce County Jail a day later with no charges filed, pending further investigation.
Flanked by attorneys, she denied deliberately infecting patients with the virus and cited test results of her blood and past blood donations that came back clean as well as multiple drug tests that she passed. She also denied that she was ever told in past years that she had contracted the virus, contradicting statements from state health officials.
"I want everyone to know I never intentionally stuck anyone with a needle," Weberg said, reading from a prepared statement. "I do not believe I am a contagious carrier of hepatitis C. Please wait before making your decision about me. I did not do this."
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Weberg said she took medical waste — leftover dosages of medication — and gradually stockpiled it at home until she had enough to try to kill herself. She tried twice and failed, according to statements she supplied to an investigator from the state Department of Health. She cited a miscarriage and continuing battles with depression.
"After a patient received an order for a medication, I would administer to a patient the ordered dose, then I would withdraw the rest into a syringe to take home," Weberg wrote to a state investigator. "The medications would be mixed, as I didn't want to know how much was in the syringe, as I felt at the time it might deter me from an attempt."
In her response to state investigators, she specifically denied injecting herself with drugs before treating patients.
"Once I gave the patient the ordered dose, I would sometimes take the remainder for later use," she wrote. "In my more hopeful moments, I would waste (dispose of) the medication before I could store it, and sometimes I would take it home, have a change of heart, and waste it there. It was always with the remainder of the medication, after medicating the patient."
Asked by the investigator to explain how she might have infected two hospital patients with hepatitis C, Weberg said she did not know how it could have happened.
"I would take waste, so I am unsure how two patients would be exposed to my body fluid," she said.
Weberg's defense attorney, Bryan Hershman, criticized Puyallup police for arresting his client last week, noting that Pierce County prosecutors released her from jail with no charges filed and no restrictions on her movements. He also questioned the statements of state health officials, who suspended Weberg's nursing license Monday.
Specifically, Hershman read an excerpt from a Department of Health statement related to Weberg's suspension that said she was informed several years ago about a positive hepatitis C diagnosis.
Hershman contrasted that statement with Weberg's written answers to the state investigator.
"I am unsure if it was hepatitis C that they were worried about," Weberg wrote. "I was in nursing school and was required to get blood work for clinicals right after. When I went to a provider, I remember them doing blood work and my results being normal. I have since donated blood several times and have not had an issue."
The state investigator also asked Weberg whether she had been exposed to hepatitis C in the past.
"My father has said he has or did have hepatitis C, as well as my deceased stepfather," Weberg wrote in reply. "This is the only potential exposure that I know of."
Hershman said the state's assertions related to the license suspension ignored the nuanced answers from Weberg, and drew conclusions unsupported by evidence.
"The young lady in front of me is innocent," Hershman said, adding that tests have not established a genetic link between Weberg and two Good Samaritan patients found to have contracted the hepatitis C virus.
Hershman contended that law enforcement officials filed "false information" to justify her arrest and attacked what he called "flagrantly untruthful comments" from the state Department of Health related to the license suspension.
"She never stuck anybody with a needle," Hershman said. "They need a scapegoat."