A male nurse has been arrested after a severely intellectually disabled woman unexpectedly gave birth to a baby late last month at a specialised healthcare clinic in Arizona.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, was taken into custody on Wednesday after an extensive police investigation. Sutherland was one of the employees at the Hacienda HealthCare Skilled Nursing Facility in Phoenix, Arizona, where the intellectually disabled woman has lived for most of her life. Mr Sutherland would have been responsible for care of the woman at the time of the alleged assault (sometime between February and April 2018).
He was arrested after submitting a DNA sample to police that was then matched with DNA from the woman’s baby.
Staff said they were not aware that the woman was pregnant until she gave birth. In response to a request for comment, a PR representative for Hacienda HealthCare replied, “Because of federal privacy laws, we are unable to discuss any aspect of this patient’s care”.
The woman has been severely incapacitated since childhood as a result of severe seizures. Her parents say that she is still capable of some movement and can respond to sound. “The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities”, they said.
The woman's baby is currently being cared for by family members and is in a good state of health, police said.
The family of the victim declined to comment on Sutherland’s arrest in a separate statement issued through their attorney. The facility said that Sutherland was fired as soon as administrators learned of his arrest.
Some commentators have accused the Hacienda clinic of gross negligence.
“The details of this case are heart-wrenching and infuriating”, said Slate journalist Christina Cauterucci. “While bathing her, while checking her for bed sores, while testing her vitals—no one noticed (or has said publicly that they noticed) an expanding waistline or breasts, nor felt a growth the size of a full-term infant in her abdomen”.
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