LPN Arrested After Patient in Vegetative State Gives Birth

Authorities Charging Nathan Sutherland with Sexual Assault

Authorities were dismayed last month when a patient in a vegetative state gave birth at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix, AZ. After the incident, all male staff members were asked to provide a DNA sample, so the father of the baby and perpetrator could be identified. After a month of analyzing the results, authorities have arrested Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse at the Hacienda Healthcare facility, detaining him on preliminary charges of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse.

A Surprising Birth Under Devastating Circumstances

The patient, a 29-year-old woman and a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, had been at the facility in a vegetative state since 2002. Unable to give consent or resist her attacker in any way, the woman was considered vulnerable at the time of conception. 9-1-1 dispatchers where shocked to hear that a woman was giving birth at the assisted living facility. One of the caretakers on duty called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher, “We had no idea she was pregnant.”

The woman’s family members refute the notion that she was in a coma, saying that while she can’t speak, she has significant intellectual abilities and is able to respond to sound. But that doesn’t mean she would’ve been able to resist her attacker or notify the authorities of the alleged assault. “She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” the parents said.

According to her family, the woman came to be in a vegetative state after a series of seizures during her childhood. The family confirms that the child will be cared for while the woman continues to receive care at the assisted living facility.

The Man Accused of Sexual Assault

The police immediately began investigating the incident as a case of sexual assault. Authorities began compiling a list of all the male staff members that would have had access to the patient. They also used a court order to compel male staff members to turn in DNA samples that they could cross-check with the newborn. Nathan Sutherland was one of several male nurses and caretakers looking after the patient during her time at Hacienda Healthcare. After matching his DNA to that of the infant, police have him in custody.

Nathan Sutherland has worked as a licensed practical nurse at Hacienda Healthcare since 2011. He made his first court appearance today with his attorney David Gregan asking for a lower bond. If the judge decides to release Sutherland, he will be placed under house arrest with an electronic monitoring unit. Authorities say Sutherland has invoked his 5th Amendment rights, refusing to cooperate with the police during the investigation.

Hacienda Healthcare Speaks Out

Shortly after the woman gave birth, Hacienda Healthcare released a statement apologizing for its failure to ensure the safety of its patients. The company maintains that Sutherland was fully vetted with a full background check before hiring him in 2011. They abruptly fired him after news of his arrest, stating, “Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathies to the client and her family, to the community and to our agency partners at every level.”

The facility has been cooperating with authorities during the investigation. They’ve also increased security measures to ensure this incident doesn’t happen again, adding, “We also will continue to review and improve what is already an in-depth vetting process for caregivers at Hacienda. We will not tolerate any mistreatment of a Hacienda patient, nor will we stop until every Hacienda patient is as safe as we can make them.”

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