Woman Who Gave Birth in Vegetative State at Hacienda Healthcare May Have Been Pregnant Before, Claim Says

A nurse at Hacienda Healthcare desperately asked for instructions from a 911 operator.
KPHO

The facility caring for a 29-year-old woman who gave birth to a baby while in a vegetative state allegedly missed at least 83 chances to diagnose the pregnancy, according to a notice of claim filed Tuesday against the State of Arizona. 

The claim also alleges that it may not have been the woman's first pregnancy.

Among the signs missed by the staff at Hacienda Healthcare, according to the paperwork, were the lack of the woman's periods prior to her giving birth, the documentation of a "large and hard mass" in her abdomen and incremental weight gain over the course of months. 

As the woman, who is not being identified, gained weight, the claim notes, staff "instead treated [her] for constipation and weight gain, providing her with stool softeners [and] at least one enema." Her caloric intake was also reduced. 

Hacienda Healthcare employees also missed other signs of pregnancy, including swelling in her extremities, something that was purportedly so pronounced that it was noted by the woman's family members in December, shortly before she gave birth, according to the claim. 

The staff first noticed the pregnancy on Dec. 29 when a nurse went in to the room to "change [the woman] and 'saw a baby's head in her briefs,'" the claim states.

A panicked 911 call, previously released, captured the moments immediately following the baby's birth. “Baby’s turning blue!” the caller shouts. "We need an IV!"

Asked if the mother is "doing OK," the caller replies, "We're not sure, we had no idea this patient was pregnant."

The woman and her child were then taken to the Maricopa County Medical Center for treatment, where it was noted, according to the claim, that the patient had likely been "violated repeatedly," both vaginally and anally.

The claim also states that doctors noted this was likely a "repeat parous event," indicating the woman may have been pregnant prior to carrying her son to full term. 

"Tragically, [the woman] suffered through an entire pregnancy and delivery improperly medicated, without any pain medication, and in a state of malnutrition," the claim notes. 

The claim further states that the woman, though unable to really move or vocalize, likely recognized her assailant's "body odor and voice ... each time he was in her room, which likely caused her severe emotional distress and fear she was going to be sexually violated again." She had previously shown that she could recognize and respond to familiar people, including her family members. 

Complicating matters, according to the claim, the woman's family had asked for only female staff members to care for her, a request that was allegedly ignored, as evidenced by the pregnancy.

Investigators said that DNA testing indicates the father of the child is Nathan Sutherland, a former nurse at the facility. He is charged with sexual assault and abusing a vulnerable adult. Sutherland has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer has insisted there is no direct evidence that he "committed these acts."

"I know at this point there’s DNA," said attorney David Gregan earlier this year. "But he will have a right to his own DNA expert.”

The claim is asking for $45 million from the state, which has said it is reviewing it.

InsideEdition.com has reached out to Hacienda Healthcare for comment, but did not immediately hear back. 

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