Nurse accused of cutting off dying patient’s foot without permission pleads not guilty
ELLSWORTH, Wis. (WEAU/Gray News) – A Wisconsin nurse who is charged with removing a dying patient’s foot without permission pleaded not guilty to all charges during her arraignment in Pierce County Circuit Court on Thursday.
Mary K. Brown, 38, is charged with one count of physical abuse of an elder person intentionally causing great bodily harm, intentionally abusing patients causing great bodily harm, and one count of mayhem.
All three charges are felony charges and carry enhancers due to the victim being an older person, according to online court records.
Mayhem is described as “the criminal act of disabling, disfiguring or cutting off or making useless one of the members (leg, arm, hand, foot, eye) of another either intentionally or in a fight, called maiming,” according to law.com’s dictionary.
Documents filed with the charges in November say that on June 4, 2022, investigators were notified about a death at a nursing home, Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center, in which a body had been sent in for an autopsy due to unusual circumstances about the person’s death.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner called for an autopsy after noticing that the foot of the deceased person, a 62-year-old man, was not attached to his body, but was lying beside him.
The man had been admitted to the nursing home in March after he had fallen in his home when the heat went out, and he suffered severe frostbite on both of his feet.
According to the man’s medical chart, his foot was amputated in May. According to the criminal complaint, Brown was the person who cut the man’s foot off.
Timeline of events, according to court documents:
- March 2022: Patient is admitted to the nursing home.
- May 2022: Brown amputates the patient’s foot.
- June 2022: Patient dies.
- November 2022: Brown is charged.
- December 2022: Brown is released on bond.
- February 2023: Brown pleads not guilty to all charges.
Other nurses interviewed by investigators said that Brown removed the foot for “compassion and comfort” as the foot was necrotic, had begun to smell, and was barely still attached to the man’s body.
Some of the witnesses said that the man did not appear to be in any pain during the amputation, and there was no blood loss as a result of the procedure. However, other witnesses said that the man “moaned” as the procedure was being performed. Another witness said that “it was not a very good amputation.”
Once the foot was removed, Brown instructed staff to place it in a freezer to preserve it. Multiple witnesses said that Brown intended to taxidermy the foot “as a reminder to wear your boots,” which one nurse described as “weird.”
Another nurse said that they needed to report the incident to the facility’s administrators and to the police.
Staff of the nursing home said that Brown did not seek or obtain a doctor’s order for the amputation and that it was outside of the scope of her job responsibilities to remove the foot, according to court documents.
Brown also did not have permission from the man to perform the amputation, according to the criminal complaint.
The director of the facility said that Brown did not document the incident and that the procedure should have been done by a doctor. However, the administrator also said he believed Brown performed the amputation to provide the patient with “dignity and comfort,” and he believed a doctor would have ordered the procedure.
Nurses and staff interviewed as part of the investigation all said that Brown did not commit the act out of malice for the man.
In a statement, Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center said they are fully cooperating with the investigation and that Brown is no longer employed there.
On Dec. 6, 2022, a signature bond of $150,000 was set for Brown at her initial appearance in Pierce County Circuit Court, with conditions that she has no contact with her former employer, Spring Valley Senior Living Facility, or the victim’s family.
Brown, who was a nurse at the time of the incident, is also not allowed to work in any capacity as a caregiver, whether employed or as a volunteer, according to online court records.
For all combined charges, Brown faces up to 98 years in prison as well as a $210,000 fine.
Brown is scheduled to appear in court again on March 9 for a scheduling conference.
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