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Nurse accused of amputating patient’s foot without permission for taxidermy display

A pair of gauze scissors were used to cut the tendon that was keeping the foot attached to the man's body, the criminal complaint said. Getty Images

A Wisconsin nurse has been accused of intentionally cutting off a patient’s foot without permission, because she hoped to display it in her family’s taxidermy shop.

Mary K. Brown, 38, allegedly told her coworkers that she wanted to display the amputated foot, which was black from frostbite, next to a sign that read, “Wear your boots, kids,” reports The Washington Post.

Court documents obtained by NBC claim that Brown removed the frostbitten right foot from a 62-year-old patient on May 27.

Last week she was charged with elder abuse and mayhem by local authorities.

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The victim was admitted to the Spring Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center in Spring Valley, Wisc., in March, reports the Post, citing an arrest affidavit. He had suffered a fall at home, and at the same time his home lost heat. He arrived at the facility with badly frostbitten feet – other staff at the nursing home described them as “black like a mummy.”

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In the criminal complaint, the centre’s director of nursing said that a few days before the amputation the foot “was dead, foul smelling, and was held on by a tendon.”

Brown allegedly amputated the foot with the help of two other unidentified nurses. A pair of gauze scissors were used to cut the tendon, the complaint stated, and the foot was put in a bag in the freezer.

The man, who was in ill health beyond his feet, died several days later, reports WEAU, and an autopsy was performed after the Pierce County Medical Examiner noticed that the man’s foot was detached and laying beside him at the funeral home.

According to the criminal complaint, some of the witnesses reported that the man did not appear to suffer when the foot was removed, but others said he “moaned” and gripped one of the nurse’s hands very tightly.

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The affidavit states that Brown had asked for permission to amputate the foot, but the facility administration said no, believing the man was going to die within hours. This prompted Brown to go ahead with the amputation because she “believed it was the right thing to do,” according to the affidavit.

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Both of the assisting nurses told the sheriff’s investigator that Brown then started talking about taking the foot to her family’s taxidermy shop, reports the Post. One of the nurses said Brown wanted to take the foot home and preserve it with epoxy.

“She thought it was weird that Brown wanted to bronze the foot,” the investigator wrote in the report.

The affidavit states that Brown told the investigator she was responsible for the amputation, despite neither the patient nor her bosses asking her to remove the foot. She also admitted that the procedure was beyond the scope of her duties as a nurse.

“She stated she was trying to make the quality of life better for him,” the investigator wrote in the report. “When she is thinking of herself in his condition, she would have wanted it off.”

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