A woman who has been in a vegetative state for at least 14 years recently gave birth, prompting an investigation into the Phoenix facility where she had been receiving care.
The woman is a patient of Hacienda Healthcare, an organization of more than 40 programs that bills itself as “leading provider of specialized medical care and social services for Arizona’s infants, children and young adults who are medically fragile or chronically ill, including those with developmental disabilities.” But the patient’s pregnancy is an indicator of sexual abuse taking place in one of Hacienda’s facilities. Also troubling are reports that the woman’s caretakers did not notice she was pregnant until she was in labor.
“From what I’ve been told she was moaning,” an unidentified source told local CBS affiliated KPHO. “And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
With a nurse’s help, the woman delivered a baby boy on December 29. The child is reportedly healthy.
Sexually assaulting a vulnerable adult is a felony in Arizona, and a spokesman for Phoenix police told the Washington Post that authorities are investigating the case. Arizona’s Department of Economic Security has conducted health and safety checks at the facility, and Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement that it is “conducting a comprehensive internal review of our processes, protocols, and people to ensure that every single Hacienda resident is as safe and well cared for as possible.”
The unnamed source told KPHO that in light of the incident, male staff are now required to bring female employees with them if they enter a female patient’s room.
This is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the Hacienda organization. In 2017, a male resident complained about staffers walking through his shower room, and Department of Health and Human Services records from 2013 reveal that staffers had heard a fellow employee making sexual comments about patients. The employee was fired.
According to the Post, it is not clear if police have identified any suspects in the recent case. The KPHO source said that the woman needs 24-hour care, and many people would have had access to her room. When asked if the woman would have had any means of defending herself from an abuser, the source replied, “No. None whatsoever. And not even able to communicate the fact that she was pregnant.”
A spokesperson for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Tasha Menaker, told KPHO that people living with disabilities are three more times at-risk of sexual violence than people without disabilities, and is worried there could be more alleged victims.
“In sexual assault cases, it’s not uncommon that perpetrators have multiple victims and so that would be a concern for us,” she said.
“Our hope is that there will be a thorough investigation that identifies the person who did this and for some reason we weren’t to see a thorough investigation, we would take further steps,” said Menaker.
“There’s an infant involved which is evidence and so I think the first place to begin would be a DNA test of that child and that’s something the police department has the capacity to do,” she added.
“As an organization, Hacienda HealthCare stands fully committed to getting to the truth of what, for us, represents an unprecedented matter,” David Leibowitz, spokesman for Hacienda HealthCare, said in a statement.
Watch an anonymous source being interviewed about a woman who gave birth while under long-term care in a vegetative state: