36-year-old nurse Nathan Sutherland has been arrested on charges of vulnerable adult abuse and sexual assault after a patient he had access to gave birth while in a vegetative state.
Police in Maricopa County, Arizona arrested Sutherland, a nurse at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix, after obtaining a DNA sample, and finding that Sutherland and the baby’s DNA matched. According to local law enforcement, Sutherland was the nurse who had access to the woman who was assaulted. ABC News reported that Sutherland had been a nurse at the facility since 2011, though he was not working at the time police retrieved DNA evidence.
While the victim in the alleged rape was unconscious, she was not in a coma, according to the family’s attorney.
“She has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood,” the attorney said in a public statement. “She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck. Their daughter responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures. The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family.”
After the patient gave birth, Hacienda Healthcare changed their policies on patient security. Now, when a male nurse is giving treatment to a female patient, another person is required to be present in the room. The hospital also hired more security personnel for patient care areas. It is unclear as of this writing whether or not Sutherland has retained a lawyer, or if he has been assigned a public defender. He is currently being held without bond.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.