Nurse accused of removing patient’s foot without permission

A nurse is facing charges after authorities accused her of cutting off a patient's foot.
A nurse is facing charges after authorities accused her of cutting off a patient's foot.(Canva)
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 2:05 PM AKST
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ELLSWORTH, Wis. (WEAU/Gray News) - A Wisconsin nurse is facing charges after a patient’s foot was amputated without permission, according to criminal charges filed on Nov. 3 in Pierce County Circuit Court.

WEAU reports 38-year-old Mary K. Brown of Durand is charged with physical abuse of an elder person intentionally causing great bodily harm and mayhem, with both charges carrying enhancers due to the victim being an elderly person, according to online court records.

In documents filed with the charges, on June 4, investigators were notified about a death at the Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center nursing home, 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 person, a 62-year-old man, was not attached to his body but laying beside him at the funeral home. The Medical Examiner found that the man had been admitted to the nursing home in March after he had fallen in his home when the heat went out and had 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. Nurses interviewed as part of the investigation 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, although other witnesses said that the man “moaned” as it was being performed while another 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 and bronze the foot “as a reminder to wear your boots,” which one nurse described as “weird.” One nurse said that they needed to report the incident to the facility’s administrators and to the police.

Nursing home staffers said Brown did not seek or obtain a doctor’s order for the amputation, and 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 facility director said Brown did not document the incident, and the procedure should have been done by a doctor. The facility’s administrator said that Brown did not report the incident, and the man’s chart had a number of missing entries, including on the day of the amputation.

Nurses and staff members interviewed as part of the investigation all said that Brown did not commit the act out of malice for the man. The facility’s administrator said that she was attempting to provide the man “dignity and comfort” and that he believed a doctor would have ordered the procedure.

In a statement, Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center said, “We have and will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation into this matter. The person identified is not employed with our community.”

Brown faces up to 40 years in prison on each of the felony charges, as well as six additional years in prison for each charge due to the enhancers. Brown also faces a maximum penalty of $100,000 for each charge. She is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 6 for an initial appearance.