Nurse accused of removing patient’s foot without permission pleads not guilty
The 38-year-old woman also received a new charge of intentional abusing patients causing great bodily harm.
ELLSWORTH, Wis. (WEAU) - A woman who was a nurse and accused of cutting off a dying patient’s foot without permission pleaded not guilty to three felony charges Thursday in Pierce County Circuit Court.
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 elder person. Brown also received a new charge of intentionally abusing patients causing great bodily harm with an enhancer of the victim being an elderly person. She pleaded not guilty to all of the charges during her arraignment on Thursday.
Brown was released on a $150,000 signature bond on Dec. 6, 2022 with conditions that she have 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. Brown requested in a letter to Judge Rohl on Dec. 6 to bar media from court proceedings.
Brown is represented by Prescott-based Philip Helgeson, who was appointed to the case on Dec. 7, 2022, according to online court records. Helgeson argued that the elements or standards for mayhem or great bodily harm had not been met in the case, but Judge Elizabeth Rohl found cause to bind Brown over for trial at a January court appearance.
In documents filed with the charges in November, on June 4, 2022, investigators were notified about a death at a nursing home, Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center in Spring Valley, Wis., 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 of 2022, 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 of 2022.
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.
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. The facility’s administrator said that Brown did not report the incident and that the man’s chart had a number missing entries, including on the day of the amputation. Nurses and staff 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 original 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 faces up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the added charge of intentionally abusing patients.
Brown is scheduled to appear in court on March 9 for a scheduling conference, according to online court records.
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