Woman in Vegetative State Who Gave Birth in Nursing Facility Was 'Violated Repeatedly'
The victim “lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents."
In newly-filed court documents, the family of the incapacitated woman who gave birth to a child after allegedly being raped by a nurse at a long-term care facility say she was sexually assaulted repeatedly, and had likely been pregnant before.
PEOPLE obtained a copy of the notice of claim filed late Wednesday in Arizona against the state, proposing a $45 million settlement to a civil lawsuit that relatives of the woman—who was 29 at the time of her child’s birth in November—are preparing.
The notice of claim further alleges staffers at Phoenix-based Hacienda HealthCare incorrectly diagnosed her pregnancy on dozens of occasions—at one point, prescribing laxatives for the mass in her stomach.
The victim, at the facility since she was a toddler, “lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate” and suffers from quadriplegia, recurrent pneumonia and a seizure disorder, according to her medical records.
The notice of claim alleges that, on at least 83 opportunities, medical staff at Hacienda HealthCare workers misdiagnosed her pregnancy.
Citing the woman’s medical records, the court filing alleges she did not menstruate in the months leading up to the baby’s delivery.
On three occasions, staffers noted a “large and hard mass” in her abdomen, the filing contends. Additionally, her stomach was characterized as “distended” during 24 examinations.
The victim’s medical records also indicate staffers noticed her legs and feet were swollen 12 times, and, despite the fact that she was on a feeding tube, documented changes in her weight eight times.
In the months before the baby’s birth, nurses checking on her noted the victim’s private parts also appeared swollen.
The filing further alleges the victim’s family had specifically requested that only females nurses care for the woman, but that at least two male nurses — including her alleged rapist — tended to her.
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Nathan Sutherland, 37, was arrested earlier this year, and has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse. His attorney has not responded to PEOPLE’s previous requests for comment.
Wednesday’s filing further alleges a doctor ordered an ultrasound for the victim the day before she delivered the baby, realizing she might be pregnant.
The claim states the victim was examined at the Maricopa County Medical Center after the baby was born, and officials there determined she had been “violated repeatedly” and that her pregnancy was a “repeat parous event” — meaning she may have been pregnant previously.
Police say they learned about Sutherland’s possible involvement after search warrants turned up records from the facility identifying those who may have had access to the victim during the time she was impregnated.
DNA samples were collected from “numerous individuals” and Sutherland was arrested after providing a DNA sample under a court order that later matched with the child.
The baby is said to be healthy, and in the custody of the victim’s family.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office would not comment on the filing or its claims.
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