- The Hacienda HealthCare Skilled Nursing Facility in Arizona was scrutinised in December when one of its patients, a woman with cognitive impairments, gave birth. A nurse at the facility has been charged with raping her.
- On Wednesday, lawyers for the woman and her parents filed a notice of claim against the state seeking a settlement of $US45 million for the “years of neglect, abuse, and exploitation.”
- Included in the claim is a report from the hospital where the woman was taken after giving birth that said it was likely not the first time she had been pregnant.
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A nursing home in Arizona made headlines in December when a woman with cognitive impairments there gave birth and in January when a nurse was arrested on suspicion of raping her after a DNA test determined he was the baby’s father.
A notice of claim that lawyers for the woman and her parents filed against the state of Arizona on Wednesday seeking a $US45 million settlement for the “years of neglect, abuse and exploitation” that she endured included new details about the case.
Among the most shocking revelations in the court documents that INSIDER reviewed is the possibility that the 29-year-old woman may have been pregnant before.
The woman had been in Hacienda’s care since age 3
Born in April 1989, the woman spent the first years of her life on the San Carlos Apache Reservation with her parents and many siblings, the claim said.
When she was about 2 months old, she developed seizures and was eventually diagnosed with idiopathic encephalopathy with psychomotor retardation and cortical blindness, it said.
By the time she was 3, doctors recommended that her parents move her to an inpatient facility for care. She started living full time at Hacienda HealthCare in May 1992.
While initial reports said the woman was in a coma, her condition is more complex than that. The claim said she is quadriplegic and largely nonverbal but has the “ability to turn her head towards auditory stimuli” and can make some sounds, including crying “when she is uncomfortable.”
That means that she likely knew who was abusing her and felt pain when it happened, Sharon Cooper, a pediatric doctor who focuses on the treatment of vulnerable children and adults who have been sexually abused, said in a statement to the woman’s lawyers.
Though the woman “could not ask for help or verbalize her fear,” she probably “would have recognised the body odor and voice of her assailant each time he was in her room, which likely caused her severe emotional distress and fear that she was going to be sexually violated again,” Cooper said.
Hacienda staff didn’t know the woman was pregnant until the baby was crowning
The claim also accuses the woman’s care team and the state of not realising she was pregnant until she was in labour despite noting a large mass in her abdomen and missed periods.
The claim said Hacienda instead treated the woman “for constipation and weight gain, providing her with stool softeners, at least one enema, and reducing her caloric intake.”
The claim said workers didn’t know she was pregnant until a nurse went to change her and “saw a baby’s head in her briefs.”
The woman gave birth to the baby boy at Hacienda, and both were transported to the Maricopa County Medical Center for further care. It was there that doctors inspected the woman and found some startling injuries.
There were signs of repeated sexual trauma
According to hospital records included in the claim, doctors found some old lacerations that suggested a “history of vaginal penetration or trauma” before the baby’s delivery.
Because the woman had been in an unresponsive state of consciousness since age 3, doctors said the injuries were “obviously a result of non-consensual sexual assault.”
Doctors also determined that the baby’s birth was a “non-nulliparous event.” Nulliparous means a woman has not given birth previously, regardless of the outcome. That means that doctors thought she had been pregnant before.
“Old healed hymen remnants and the gaping nature of her vagina suggest that repeat coitus has occurred and likely this is a repeat parous event,” the document said.
The woman’s parents say they’re racked with guilt
The woman’s parents said in the document that they were “devastated with a myriad of emotions, including the guilt of leaving their daughter at Hacienda and sadness and disgust” over imagining what she felt without being able to communicate to them.
But they also said they had specifically requested as early as 2002 that only female staff members care for their daughter and that they had been promised this was the case.
Hacienda documents included in the claim said that Nathan Sutherland, the man charged with raping the woman, worked with her unsupervised “hundreds” of times between 2012 and 2018 and that he wasn’t the only male staff member to do so.
The woman “suffered unspeakable terror, anguish, and pain through repeated sexual assaults, probably over many years, and now lives with the emotional and physical scars,” the claim said.
It added: “The unspeakable atrocities perpetrated upon [the woman] occurred as a result of systemic and individual misconduct and mismanagement at the Hacienda ICF-ID, and virtually non-existent oversight on the part of the State.”
The woman’s parents are seeking $US45 million in damages from the state: $US25 million to go to their daughter, and $US10 million to each of them.
Hacienda didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment. The company announced in February it was closing the facility in Arizona. Sutherland has pleaded not guilty.
- Read more:
- Longtime Hacienda HealthCare CEO was allowed to keep his job despite years of reported sexual harassment and bullying complaints
- Nurse accused of sexually assaulting cognitively impaired patient at an Arizona nursing facility is pleading not guilty
- Police arrest 36-year-old nurse in sexual-assault case of cognitively impaired woman at Phoenix care facility
- A doctor who cared for a woman who gave birth after a suspected rape at an Arizona care center has been suspended, and another has resigned
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