Former Veterans Affairs hospice nurse in Massachusetts sentenced to prison for stealing morphine meant for dying veterans

John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston. (Shira Schoenberg/

A 55-year-old Tewksbury woman who worked as a nurse in the hospice unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus in Bedford was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday for stealing morphine meant for dying veterans.

Kathleen Noftle was sentenced to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release, court records show. She pleaded guilty in October 2020 to one count of tampering with a consumer product and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 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 that she mixed water from the sink with a portion of the liquid morphine doses, and then administered the diluted medication to patients orally,” authorities said. “Noftle then ingested a diluted amount of the remaining drug.”

Court records said she worked as a nurse at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in a hospice wing.

One veteran experienced increased difficulty breathing and increased suffering in his final days due to the diluted morphine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Investigators had learned that Noftle had previously resigned from her position as a nurse at a different hospital because she failed to follow appropriate procedures involving drugs. There were 60 different instances at the prior hospital, investigators said.

Federal records show Noftle was hired at the VAMC as a full-time nurse on March 22, 2015. She previously worked as a registered nurse at Tewksbury Hospital for roughly 29 years. Investigators said Noftle agreed to resign from Tewksbury Hospital instead of undergoing a disciplinary hearing which could have ended with her being fired.

Noftle admitted to investigators that she had “addiction issues” and began to divert drugs away from the facility for about two months, according to a federal affidavit.

The former nurse falsified records to cover up her scheme, authorities said.

Records from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health records show Noftle failed to follow proper procedures when “wasting” narcotics on 60 occasions, placing patient safety in jeopardy.

Her nursing license is now suspended.


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