BEDFORD (CBS) – A Tewksbury woman is facing federal charges after she allegedly used water to dilute morphine intended for sick and dying veterans so she could inject the leftover drugs. Kathleen Noftle was a nurse in the hospice unit at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford.
She was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception, and subterfuge, and one count of tampering with a consumer product.
Prosecutors said that on January 13-15, 2017, Noftle ingested morphine meant for veterans under her care. She allegedly mixed a portion of it with water from the sink and gave it to patients.
“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 U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.
Noftle previously resigned from her position as a nurse at Tewksbury Hospital. DPH records show she did not follow proper procedures for narcotics disposal 60 times there. She was allowed to resign in lieu of a disciplinary hearing
“These allegations run completely counter to VA’s values, that’s why we terminated this individual and reported her behavior to VA’s independent inspector general,” said Joan Clifford, the director of Bedford VA Medical Center.
If convicted of both charges, Noftle could face a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
“I am a better person than the behavior I displayed leads you to believe,” Noftle said, according to the criminal complaint.
Noftle was arraigned in Boston federal court on Wednesday and released. She agreed to participate in a mental health treatment program and will undergo random drug testing.
Notfle worked at Tewksbury Hospital from June 1986-December 2014. She was placed on leave in 2014 and eventually resigned for failure to document medicine waste.
Tewksbury Hospital did not find evidence of drug diversion during Notfle’s employment. But there was enough evidence that she had not properly documented medication to discipline her.