Woman in vegetative state for decade gives birth to baby boy, suspect arrested

aborted, newborn, feet, birth

UPDATE, 1/25/19: Male nurse Nathan Sutherland, age 36, has been arrested for the sexual assault of the patient at Hacienda Health Care. The Daily Wire reports that the woman’s family’s attorney said the victim, though described as being in a persistent vegetative state for years, “has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family…. [S]he is a person….”

A DNA test revealed who perpetrated the crime. Authorities stated, “We owed this arrest to the victim. We owed this arrest to the newest member of our community, that innocent baby.”

UPDATE, 1/12/19: According to, the woman, age 29, was a victim of a near-drowning incident at age three and has lived at the care center since that age. Her baby boy was born “turning blue” and not breathing and workers at the health center delivered CPR for several minutes until he finally let out a cry. Reportedly, the woman had been on barbiturates and this may have caused the baby’s unresponsiveness at birth. A child psychiatrist quoted by Patheos said he believes the child has an 80% chance of being significantly developmentally delayed. The woman had had surgery for a bowel obstruction, which can cause scar tissue, and it is believed that the pregnancy was not noticed for this reason. Listen to the 911 call here, and read a transcript here.

1/11/19: The shocking abuse against a disabled woman has outraged the nation. The woman, a patient at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, Arizona, is described by CNN as having been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, gave birth to a baby boy on December 29. The media are not releasing her name, because she is a victim of sexual abuse.

Many people are surprised that a patient who appears to be unconscious could give birth. Dr. Deborah Feldman, Hartford HealthCare Medical Group director of maternal fetal medicine, told CNN that it is very rare but does happen. Dr. Feldman stated that the case “speaks to the fact that the patient actually had largely normally functioning organs.” Recent research has shown that patients in a vegetative state can also have awareness and mental functioning far beyond what most people realize. A neuroscientist found that at least 20 percent of people in a vegetative state are completely aware of their surroundings and experience but unable to move or respond.

John Micheaels, an attorney for the victim’s family, told CNN, “The family would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for,” adding, “The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda HealthCare.” Detectives are gathering DNA samples from men at the facility as part of an ongoing investigation of the crime.

READ: Researchers successfully restore brain function in a man who spent 15 years in vegetative state

Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of which the victim is a member, called for justice. He told CNN, “When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers.” He added, “Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her.”

This abuse, committed against a vulnerable disabled woman, is dehumanizing and horrific. Her family’s loving care for her baby boy born last month shows that the crime in no way diminished the humanity of her child, conceived in such difficult circumstances. All vulnerable lives — including disabled persons and the preborn conceived in rape — deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

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