Nurse Accused of Unauthorized Amputation

Colleagues say she cut off elderly man's foot, planned to preserve it
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2022 1:51 PM CST
Nurse Accused of Unauthorized Amputation
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Pixelci)

A hospice nurse in Wisconsin is facing multiple charges after allegedly cutting off an elderly man's foot without permission from doctors or the patient. Mary K. Brown, 38, allegedly amputated the right foot of a dying man at Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center on May 27, WQOW reports. The patient was admitted to the nursing home in March with severe frostbite on both feet. According to a criminal complaint, his necrotic right foot was still attached to his leg by several inches of tissue on the morning before Brown carried out the unauthorized amputation. A medical examiner assigned to carry out an autopsy on the man's body contacted authorities when he found that the foot had been removed, reports KSTP.

According to the criminal complaint, nurses told investigators that Brown had spoken of her interest in taxidermy and apparently wanted to take the foot home and keep it. More than one nurse said Brown wanted to preserve the foot and display it with a sign reading, "Wear your boots kids." Brown—who is no longer employed by the nursing home—told police she removed the foot to make the man more comfortable. One nurse, however, told police that she spoke with the man afterward, and he "told her he felt everything during it, and it hurt very bad," per WQOW.

The criminal complaint states that Brown acknowledged during a police interview that she did not have authorization to remove the man's foot, and he had not granted permission for the procedure. "Administrators of the nursing home agreed that it was outside of the scope of Brown’s practice to conduct such a procedure and a doctor’s order was necessary prior to any amputation," the complaint states. Brown's first court hearing is set for Dec. 6. She could face more than 40 years if found guilty on felony charges of abuse of an elder person and mayhem. While the definition of "mayhem" has broadened over the centuries, it comes from the same root as "maim," linguists say, and has retained that meaning in legal terms. (More strange stuff stories.)

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