A police investigation is underway after a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 14 years gave birth at a private nursing facility last month.
The patient, who has been unresponsive since a near-drowning incident more than a decade ago, delivered a healthy baby boy on December 29, 2018 at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, AZ. Staffers didn’t know the woman was pregnant until she went into labor, an unnamed source told KTVK, a local CBS News affiliate.
“None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth,” the source said. “From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
The facility, which specializes in treating chronically ill and developmentally disabled people, has apparently changed protocols and will no longer allow male staffers to enter a female patient’s room unaccompanied. Refinery29 reached out to Hacienda HealthCare for comment.
Multiple agencies, including the Phoenix police department and the Arizona Department of Health Services, are now investigating the woman’s sexual assault.
“During this time, the agency has required heightened safety measures be implemented at the facility, including increased staff presence during patient interactions; increased monitoring of the patient care areas; and increased security measures with respect to visitors at the facility,” Arizona Department of Health Services spokesperson Melissa Blasius-Nuanez said Friday.
DISTURBING: A woman who's been in a vegetative state for at least 14 yrs, gave birth to a baby boy Saturday. She was being cared for at a long-term care facility in Phoenix. Now investigators are searching for who raped her.— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) January 4, 2019
Our exclusive interview w/ a source close to the case pic.twitter.com/wTLRAqbTRY
The department’s records show that in 2013, a male staffer at Hacienda HealthCare was fired after colleagues reported him making “sexually explicit remarks” about patients, according to the New York Times. The employee was fired and the facility instituted new training policies on reporting patient abuse.
A local OB-GYN told KTVK it was a “miracle” there were no severe complications during the birth.
“This was an extremely dangerous situation with no monitoring,” Dr. Greg Marchand said. “It could have been an active labor for hours or even days. This easily could have resulted in a fetal death.
“There’s no doubt she was able to feel pain, but how much consciousness there was to really take the suffering from that is what I don’t know,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, meanwhile, worries there could be more victims at the nursing facility.
“Many sexual assault perpetrators are actually looking for situations where people are in isolated or vulnerable positions,” spokesperson Tasha Menaker told KTVK. “Because most perpetrators are not reported to police or their cases don't actually move forward, we always don't know if someone has a history of engaging in sexual harm against people.
“Our hope is that there will be a thorough investigation that identifies the person who did this, and [if] for some reason we weren't to see a thorough investigation, we would take further steps.”