Arizona Governor Orders Reforms After Rape Of Woman In Vegetative State

A nurse at a Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix is charged with raping the victim, who gave birth in December.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order on Wednesday increasing protections for people with disabilities after a woman in a vegetative state was raped while in the care of a Phoenix nursing facility. 

“All Arizonans deserve to be safe ― and we have a special responsibility to protect those with disabilities,” Ducey said in a statement. “This executive order provides increased accountability and stricter oversight, ensuring our most vulnerable are safe and protected.”

The executive order calls for state agencies, including the Health Care Cost Containment System, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Economic Security, to develop protocols to prevent, recognize and report abuse and neglect in long-term care nursing facilities. The order also requires nursing facility staff to receive annual training in preventing and reporting abuse. 

Ducey’s order further requires facilities like Hacienda HealthCare to apply for state licenses and perform background checks on all staff who interact with patients.

Hacienda HealthCare made national news when a patient who was in a vegetative state gave birth to a child in December. The patient, a 29-year-old Native American woman whose identity has not been publicly revealed, has been in a vegetative state for over a decade after a near-drowning.

The woman gave birth on Dec. 29 to a healthy child, according to reports from local outlet KPHO-TV. Hacienda staffers reportedly did not realize the patient was pregnant until she began moaning as she was going into labor. 

The longtime CEO of Hacienda HealthCare, Bill Timmons, resigned last month in the wake of the incident. 

Nathan Sutherland, a Hacienda HealthCare nurse who had been caring for the victim, was arrested in January and charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse. Sutherland, 36, has pleaded not guilty to both charges.