A nurse who worked at an Indiana nursing home admitted to removing an oxygen mask from an elderly COVID patient intending to cause his death. He died hours later. The nurse is now being charged, but not with manslaughter or murder. Instead, she is being charged with “practicing medicine without a license.”
Nurse Connie Sneed posted on Facebook that she removed the mask of 72-year-old James Godrey, who had a history of dementia, muscle weakness, and depression. Another nurse saw the post and alerted authorities.
Sneed posted, “I asked [Godrey] on day 4 if he’s tired, he said yes I said do you want me to take all this off for you and let you go and fly with the angels and he said yes.”
Although Sneed told another nurse at Wedgewood that she had removed the oxygen mask with the intent to kill Godrey and also documented her actions in his chart, the nursing home took no action until authorities were notified, after which Sneed was fired.
Nursing home administration claimed they were unaware of Sneed’s actions until the Facebook post was brought to their attention. It seems possible that had Sneed not posted on Facebook, she would have gotten away with removing the mask and causing the man’s death.
Sneed failed to keep Godrey’s doctor informed of his condition. When Godrey’s oxygen count went down to 64% four days before his death, Sneed did not alert the doctor. Instead, she put an oxygen mask on Godrey, and also neglected to consult with a doctor before removing the oxygen mask.
Sneed claimed that Godrey consented to his death, but there were no witnesses. She also claimed Godrey’s daughter had given her permission to remove the mask and let her father die if those were his wishes. The daughter, however, tells a different story. The article reveals:
Sneed told [Godrey’s daughter] her father would not keep his mask on… [T]he daughter talked with her father on a video call, asking him to keep on the mask and “he nodded his head up and down.”
The daughter, according to her account in the report, told Sneed “she could remove it, but try to put it back on him later when he calmed down.” On the following night, April 28, the daughter was “snuck” into the nursing home to see her father. “He had the mask in place, and was barely opening his eyes,” she said, according to the report. “She asked him to keep the mask on.
When asked why she hadn’t informed the doctor of Godrey’s worsening condition before his death, Sneed said she’d had a “terrible” week and claimed she forgot to notify the doctor because she was caring for multiple COVID patients.
Although there is no question that Sneed caused Godrey’s death by removing his oxygen mask, the only charge she is facing is practicing medicine without a license, which carries with it a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of one to six years. These charges imply that removing an oxygen mask from a patient to cause his death is simply “practicing medicine,” and that Sneed’s only wrong action was euthanizing Godrey herself rather than consulting a doctor first.
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