Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused a former hospice nurse of stealing liquid morphine intended for dying veterans, which at least once led to prolonged suffering of a vet during the last days of his life.
Kathleen Noftle, 55, allegedly took the drugs from patients in the hospice care unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., in 2017.
Investigators said she admitted to diluting the drug three times by mixing water with it and then administering half of the weakened dose to patients under her care and taking the rest for herself.
“The investigation revealed that, due to diluted morphine administered by Noftle, one veteran experienced increased difficulty breathing (dyspnea) and increased suffering in his final days,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts.
Noftle was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge as well as one count of tampering with a consumer product. She appeared before a federal judge who released her on her own recognizance.
The investigation into Noftle showed she had resigned from her position as a nurse at a different hospital following her failure to follow proper procedures when wasting narcotics on 60 occasions, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The VA said the allegations against Noftle “run completely counter to VA’s rules.”
“That’s why we terminated this individual and reported her behavior to VA’s independent inspector general,” the medical center said in a statement.
If Noftle is convicted on all charges, she could face over a decade behind bars.
Her federal public defender did not immediately comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.