Last month, a former VA hospice nurse was arrested for allegedly stealing morphine from her dying patients at the Edith N. Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Kathleen Noftle was arrested and charged on September 18, 2019 with one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception, and subterfuge, and another count of tampering with a consumer product.
According to charging documents, Ms. Noftle used her position as a nurse to obtain doses of morphine that were intended to be given to veterans under her care in the hospice unit at the Bedford VA. In fact, Ms. Noftle admitted to federal agents that she would mix a portion of the liquid morphine doses with water from the sink and would then administer that diluted dose to the patients orally, while personally ingesting the remaining amount of the drug. A subsequent investigation into these allegations revealed that, due to the diluted morphine doses administered by Ms. Noftle, at least one veteran experienced increased difficulty breathing and, in turn, increased pain and suffering during his final days. The investigation also revealed that Ms. Noftle had resigned from her position as a nurse at another hospital, prior to working at the Bedford VA, due to “her failure to follow appropriate procedures when wasting narcotics on 60 occasions.”
Joan Clifford – the director for the Edith N. Rogers VA Hospital – confirmed that Ms. Noftle was fired and that the allegations were appropriately reported to the VA Office of Inspector General but did not provide any further specifics, such as when she was terminated or when the VA OIG was notified. However, she did offer her sincerest apologies to the “family and friends of any Veteran affected by the actions of this individual”, but insisted that “[t]hese allegations run counter to VA’s culture, and is why we terminated this individual and reported her behavior to VA’s independent inspector general.”
The fact of the matter is that Ms. Noftle should have never been in the position that she was in when she managed to steal morphine from veterans who are dying, and the VA needs to better ensure that nurses and other VA staff are appropriately screened and investigated before being hired and tasked with caring for our veterans. Fortunately, though, the investigation did not reveal more individuals harmed by Ms. Noftle’s unconscionable actions – although one is one to many – and she will soon face the consequences of her actions.
If found guilty of both charges, Ms. Noftle could face up to 14 years in prison, four years of supervised release, and fines as high as $500,000. A probable cause hearing has been set for Oct. 16, according to CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/18/us/va-hospice-nurse-charged-morphine/index.html
U.S. Attorney’s Office Statement - https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/former-va-hospice-nurse-charged-diverting-and-tampering-morphine-meant-dying-veterans