BOSTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a former nurse at a veterans’ hospital in Massachusetts took liquid morphine intended for dying patients for her own use and then administered diluted doses.
Prosecutors say 55-year-old Kathleen Noftle, of Tewksbury, took the drugs in 2017 from veterans under her care in the hospice unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford.
According to charging documents, on Jan. 13, 14, and 15, 2017, Noftle used her position as a nurse to obtain doses of morphine that were meant to be given to the veterans under her care in the hospice unit.
Noftle admitted to federal agents that she mixed water from a sink with a portion of the liquid morphine doses, and then administered the diluted medication to patients orally. Noftle then allegedly ingested a diluted amount of the remaining drug. 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.
The investigation also found that before working at the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Noftle had resigned from her position as a nurse at a different hospital following her failure to follow appropriate procedures when wasting narcotics on 60 occasions.
Noftle was arrested Wednesday and released on personal recognizance after an initial court appearance. Not guilty pleas to charges of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation and tampering with a consumer product were entered on her behalf. A voicemail was left with her federal public defender.