Phoenix police are investigating a sexual assault at a nursing facility after a woman in a persistent vegetative state for 14 years gave birth to a baby in her bed last month.
The facility is now under criminal investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, after the woman went into labor in her bed and delivered a healthy baby boy on Dec. 29, 2018 at Hacienda healthcare in Phoenix.
Staffers say they didn’t know the patient was pregnant until she began moaning.
“None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth,” an unnamed source told CBS News affiliate KTVK. “From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
The patient has been in a vegetative state since a near-drowning incident 14 years ago. She has been a patient at the long-term care facility for over a decade.
The facility has since changed its protocols for comatose and developmentally delayed female patients, and will no longer allow male staffers to enter a female patient’s room unaccompanied.
“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 told Refinery29.com Friday.
The Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Health Services are conducting a joint investigation into the sexual assault.
According to Refinery29, the department’s records show a male staffer was fired in 2013 for making inappropriate sexual remarks about female patients, according to the New York Times.
The facility instituted new policies requiring staff to report patient abuse.
Dr. Greg Marchand tells Refinery29.com the patient could have died as the result of an unattended live birth.
Dr. Marchand said the patient “could have been in active labor for hours or even days. This really could have resulted in her death.”
Dr. Marchand added, “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.”
A spokesperson for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence said sexual predators seek out employment where people are in vulnerable positions. Spokesperson Tasha Menaker told KTVK she worries there could be more victims at the facility.
“Many sexual assault perpetrators are actually looking for situations where people are in isolated or vulnerable positions,” she said.
“Our hope is that there will be a thorough investigation that identifies the person who did this.”
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