A Wisconsin nurse was charged with elder abuse after police said she amputated the frostbitten right foot of a dying nursing home patient without his permission.
Even more shocking is her alleged motive for surgery on the 62-year-old man.
Mary K. Brown, 38, told co-workers she planned to bronze the man’s right foot and display it in her family’s taxidermy shop with a sign saying, “wear your boots kids,” according to a police affidavit cited by The Washington Post.
Brown, 38, was charged last week with physical abuse of an elder person intentionally causing great bodily harm and mayhem in the May 27 incident at Spring Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center in Pierce County, according to NBC News.
The arrest came after a monthslong investigation that began when the county medical examiner noticed “unusual circumstances” in the autopsy — an unattached foot “lying beside him,” according to a court filing obtained by NBC.
The victim had been staying in the center since March, after a fall and heating failure at his home left him with “severe frostbite” on both feet, police said. He had other medical problems as well, according to the affidavit, and his death appeared imminent.
Dead tissue on his feet turned “black like a mummy,” other nursing home employees told police, and the smell was so bad the man apologized to nurses.
Brown noted on the man’s medical chart that she amputated the right foot out of compassion, police said.
Other nurses told investigators that even before that, the man’s right foot wasn’t fully attached as a result of an earlier fall at the center. Some witnesses said the man “moaned” during the amputation. Others said he appeared to be in no pain.
Once the foot was removed, Brown instructed a staff member to place it in a freezer, police said. The man died days later.
One nurse admitted to investigators she thought Brown’s supposed plan to bronze the foot was “weird,” and another felt it should be reported to administrators and the police, according to WEAU-TV.
Brown admitted she didn’t have authorization or permission from the victim to do the surgery, according to KSTP-TV. An administrator told investigators he told Brown not to remove the foot, but believed she did it for the patient’s “dignity and comfort.”
Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center released a statement saying that Brown no longer works there and that center “will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation into this matter.”
Brown is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 6. If convicted, she faces up to 40 years in prison on each felony charge, as well as six additional years in prison for each charge due to enhanced penalties for elderly abuse.