A former hospice nurse has been accused of ingesting morphine that was meant for dying veterans and, in turn, causing increased suffering for some of the patients in their last days, officials said Wednesday.
Kathleen Noftle, 55, was arrested and charged for offenses she allegedly committed while working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus in Bedford, Massachusetts, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in the state.
Noftle admitted to authorities that she mixed water from the sink with a portion of the liquid morphine to dilute the drug three times in January 2017, then gave the watered-down version to veterans and ingested the remaining amount for herself, according to the attorney’s office.
In one case, a veteran experienced increased difficulties breathing and increased suffering in his final days, federal prosecutors said, citing its investigation into the matter.
The investigation also revealed that before Noftle worked at the VA center in Bedford, she resigned from her position as a nurse at a different hospital because she did not follow protocol when throwing out narcotics on 60 occasions.
The VA medical center said in a statement that 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.”
Noftle was charged with one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation and one count of tampering with a consumer product, the attorney’s office said.
She faces up to 14 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 if found guilty on both charges.
Noftle’s initial court appearance will be held Wednesday afternoon in Boston federal court. Her attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News for comment.