Home Headlines Nurse amputates patient’s foot without doctor’s authorization

Nurse amputates patient’s foot without doctor’s authorization

by Yucatan Times
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A nurse in western Wisconsin has been charged with two felony counts of elder abuse for allegedly amputating a hospice patient’s foot without a doctor’s order or patient’s consent. She then told colleagues she wanted to preserve and display the foot at her family’s taxidermy shop, according to a criminal complaint filed last week in Pierce County.

A registered nurse in western Wisconsin is charged with amputating a patient's foot without a doctor's authorization or the patient's knowledge.
A registered nurse in western Wisconsin is charged with amputating a patient’s foot without a doctor’s authorization or the patient’s knowledge.

Mary K. Brown, 38, of Durand, is scheduled to appear in Pierce County Circuit Court on Dec. 6.

Brown was working at Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center on May 27, when the incident occurred, according to the criminal complaint. The 40-bed facility in Spring Valley, a village of 1,400 people, is located near the Minnesota border in Pierce and St. Croix counties. While at the Spring Valley center, the victim was receiving separate care through hospice health workers from St. Croix County. Brown was not part of that care; she is not a hospice nurse.

The victim was 62, but neither his name nor his date of death are included in the complaint. He was dead, however, by June 4, when Pierce County Medical Examiner John Worsing contacted police. Worsing also sent the victim’s body to Ramsey County, Minnesota, for an autopsy due to “unusual circumstances.”

There is no indication in the complaint that the amputation hastened the death.

The victim had been admitted to Spring Valley facility in March after falling in his home. The complaint does not indicate how long it was before the man was found, but the heat in his home was not turned on, causing the tissue in his feet to become necrotic and die from frostbite.

One tendon, which connects muscle to bone, and roughly 2 inches of skin were keeping the foot attached to his leg. A nurse who had changed his foot bandages the morning of May 27 said the victim was “able to wiggle his toes,” according to the complaint.

Brown told two other nurses at shift change that day that she was “going to cut off the victim’s foot for comfort,” the criminal complaint said. The other two nurses told her not to and “to leave the foot attached,” it said. Shortly after the conversation, Brown and two certified nursing assistants went into the victim’s room to change the bandages on his feet.

Rather than change the bandages, Brown “cut the victim’s tendon, which amputated his right foot completely,” one of the nursing assistants in the room told an investigator. The foot was then placed in a red biohazard bag and placed in a freezer.

One of the nursing assistants said Brown was “pushing her to retrieve the foot” so Brown could take it home and preserve it, according to the complaint. The nursing assistant told the investigator Brown said her family has a taxidermy shop and she was going to preserve the foot and put it on display with a sign that said “Wear your boots kids.”

Kevin Larson, the administrator and CEO of Spring Valley Senior Living and Health Care Campus, immediately was made aware of the situation. However, Tracy Reitz, the center’s director of nursing, was not told until two days later when a nursing assistant who was “distraught about the incident,” called her, according to the complaint. Reitz said the nursing assistant told her the victim did not appear to be in pain when his foot was amputated, according to the complaint.

That conflicts with the testimony of another nurse, who told the investigator she asked the victim two days after his foot was amputated what had happened and the victim told the nurse that “he felt everything and it hurt very bad,” according to the complaint.

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