A former Wisconsin hospice nurse is facing felony charges after allegedly cutting off a dying man’s foot without his consent or permission from doctors. Mary Brown, 38, faces one count of physical abuse of an elderly person and one count of mayhem.
According to a criminal complaint, a Pierce County medical examiner contacted authorities in June after conducting an autopsy of a deceased 62-year-old man whose foot was not attached to his body but was instead “lying beside him.”
The man had been placed in a nursing home in March 2022 after suffering frostbite on both of his feet, which became necrotic, after he fell in his own residence and the heat went out, the complaint said. Brown, a nurse who was working at the facility, allegedly cut the man’s foot off on May 27 because, she told investigators, she wanted to ease his suffering and give him some “dignity,” the complaint said.
“Brown had no doctor’s order to conduct an amputation,” the complaint reads. “She stated that she did not have any authorization to remove VICTIM’s foot. Brown did not have VICTIM’s permission to amputate his foot. 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.”
Brown stated that she would have wanted the foot to be amputated if it had been her in the man’s situation, the complaint said.
Kevin Larson, the facility administrator, also told police that Brown had not been given permission to remove the foot, but that if a hospice doctor had been asked, Larson believes they would have approved the procedure. Larson had initially told Brown to stabilize the man’s foot, which was only connected by a tendon, “because VICTIM was near passing within hours,” the complaint said. “He stated that VICTIM lingered longer than expected and it became a couple of days and Brown believed it was the right thing to do.”
Larson said that when Brown later asked him what to do with the amputated food, he assumed it had fallen off, the complaint said.
Brown and another nurse told police that they did not think the man felt any pain during the amputation. However, another nurse said that when she asked the man what happened a few days after the foot had been removed, he “stated that when they cut his foot off he felt everything and it hurt very bad.”
Several other nurses said that Brown had mentioned that she planned on having the foot taxidermied, with one nurse telling investigators that Brown had mentioned her family owns a taxidermy shop, the complaint said. At least two nurses told police that Brown intended to make a display out of the foot with some sort of sign warning people to remember to “wear your boots.”
It was not clear from the complaint when the man died.
Each of the two charges Brown faces carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.