Police demand DNA from all male staff at US care centre where woman in vegetative state gave birth in ‘horrifying’ case
- A search warrant was served on Hacienda HealthCare in Arizona, to find out who fathered the child of a patient who has been in a vegetative state for 10 years
- A lawyer for the woman’s outraged family says the baby boy ‘has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for’
Police have served a search warrant to get DNA from all male employees at a long-term care facility in Phoenix, Arizona, where a patient who was in a vegetative state for years gave birth, triggering reviews by state agencies and putting a spotlight on safety concerns for severely disabled or incapacitated patients.
Hacienda HealthCare, the company that owns the facility, said Tuesday that it welcomed the DNA testing of employees.
“We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing, but unprecedented situation,” the company said in a statement.
Local news website Azfamily.com first reported the woman, who had been in a vegetative state for more than 10 years after a near-drowning, delivered a baby on December 29.
Officials with the San Carlos Apache tribe said the 29-year-old woman was an enrolled member of the tribe, whose reservation is in southeastern Arizona about 134 miles (215km) east of Phoenix.
The woman was still in a vegetative state when she gave birth, the tribe said in a statement that redacted her name. It’s unclear if staff members at the facility were aware of her pregnancy until the birth.
“On behalf of the tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members,” tribal chairman Terry Rambler said.
“When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her. It is my hope that justice will be served.”
A lawyer for the woman’s family said in a statement that her family was outraged at the “neglect of their daughter” and asked for privacy.
“The family would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for,” Phoenix lawyer John Micheaels said in a statement.
San Carlos Apache Police Chief Alejandro Benally said Phoenix police “will do all they can to find the perpetrator”.
A spokesman for Hacienda HealthCare said investigators served a search warrant Tuesday to obtain DNA samples from all male staffers.
In a statement, board member Gary Orman said the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation”.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of every single one of our patients and our employees,” Orman said.
Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons stepped down Monday, spokesman David Leibowitz said. The decision was unanimously accepted by the provider’s board of directors.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s office has called the situation “deeply troubling”.
Phoenix police so far have declined to comment.
The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are “medically fragile” or have developmental disabilities, according to its website. In the wake of the reports, the Arizona Department of Health Services said new safety measures have been implemented.
They include increased staff presence during any patient interaction, more monitoring of patient care areas and additional security measures involving visitors.
The state’s online complaint database for care facilities shows multiple complaints about Hacienda de Los Angeles going back to 2013. Most of them involve fire drill and evacuation preparation or Medicaid eligibility.
But one complaint from December 2013 outlines an allegation that a staff member made inappropriate sexual comments about four patients two months earlier. Nobody relayed the incidents to an administrator. That employee was later fired.