Nurse Arrested on Suspicion of Sexually Assaulting Woman in Vegetative State

Illustration for article titled Nurse Arrested on Suspicion of Sexually Assaulting Woman in Vegetative State
Screenshot: CBS News

After investigating the alleged sexual assault of an incapacitated woman who gave birth in December despite having been in a vegetative state since she was a child, police have arrested a nurse at the Hacienda HealthCare facility who was entrusted with the woman’s care.

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CNN reports that Phoenix Police have booked 26-year-old Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, on preliminary charges of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse. Sutherland’s DNA resulted in a match after police collected DNA from male staffers at the facility.

The woman, 29, has been unresponsive since the age of three. Employees at the longterm healthcare facility say they didn’t know the woman was pregnant, and one source told local CBS outlet KPHO that the woman had no ability to “defend” herself or communicate that she was pregnant.

In the wake of the disturbing incident, former Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons has resigned and the Arizona Department of Health Services has opened an investigation into the nursing facility.

The baby boy, who was reportedly born healthy, will live with the woman’s family.

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

DISCUSSION

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Just because the family put this out there a few days ago:

Hacienda patient isn’t comatose or in vegetative state, lawyer says

PHOENIX — The woman who gave birth at Hacienda HealthCare last month is not comatose or in a vegetative state, the family’s lawyer said in a statement Tuesday.

Attorney John Micheaels said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM that the 29-year-old woman, incapacitated since she was 3, has “significant intellectual disabilities” as a result of early childhood seizures.

The woman is not able to speak, but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck, responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures.

“The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities,” Micheaels said in a statement.

“She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family.”

I’m still not entirely sure what prompted them to make this statement, but they did.