UPDATE: Hacienda HealthCare Nurse Arrested After Vegetative Patient Gives Birth
Nathan Sutherland was arrested on Tuesday after a Phoenix police crime lab determined his DNA sample matched the baby’s DNA.
Phoenix police have arrested a Hacienda HealthCare nurse after an incapacitated patient he cared for gave birth.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, a licensed practical nurse, has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse, reports NPR.
The Phoenix police crime lab determined Tuesday that a DNA sample from Sutherland matched the baby’s DNA.
“[Police] have spent endless hours investigating this hideous crime,” Interim Mayor Thelda Williams told reporters during a news conference Wednesday. “This is a facility that you should be safe in, and someone wasn’t.”
Sutherland was responsible for caring for the victim at the time of the assault and had worked at the facility since 2011.
The 29-year-old victim, who has been a patient at the Ariz. nursing facility since she was three following a near-drowning incident, gave birth to a baby boy on Dec. 29. Staff did not know the woman was pregnant until she went into labor. Records show her last physical was in April.
“There was a nurse that was there, and from what I’ve heard she’s the one that delivered the baby,” an unidentified source told CBS 5. “From what I know the baby is alive, and the baby is healthy.”
The patient, who requires round-the-clock care, is in an awake but immobile and unaware vegetative state.
The state’s Department of Economic Security dispatched a team to conduct health and safety checks at the facility after the woman gave birth, according to The Washington Post.
Governor Doug Ducey’s office released a statement regarding the incident, assuring the state is “reevaluating the state’s contract and regulatory authority as it relates to this facility and have been working closely with state agencies to ensure all necessary safety measures are in place.”
Dr. Greg Marchand, an OB/GYN, told CBS 5 it is a miracle there were no severe complications as the woman had no prenatal care and was not able to help push the baby out.
“It could have been an active labor for hours or even days. This easily could have resulted in a fetal death,” he said.
And although the woman is unable to communicate, she was likely to have felt pain during labor.
“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,” Marchand added.
The unidentified source says the facility has changed its protocol, requiring a male staff member who enters a female patient’s room to be accompanied by a female staff member. Family members of patients also say they noticed more security guards.
Karina Cesena, whose 22-year-old daughter has lived at the facility for several years, says staff did not provide any information regarding the investigation.
“Trust has been broken. Trust has definitely been broken,” she says.
A court commissioner set Sutherland’s bail at $500,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 30.
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