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By Elisha Fieldstadt
A long-term care facility in Arizona where a woman in a vegetative state gave birth last month has hired a private attorney to conduct an internal review to determine who impregnated the patient.
Phoenix police have already executed a search warrant seeking DNA samples from male staff members at the Hacienda HealthCare center, where a woman who has been in a vegetative state for years gave birth to a baby boy. The Arizona Department of Health Services and the state’s Department of Economic Security are also working with police in the investigation.
On Sunday, Hacienda HealthCare announced that it had hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to additionally conduct an “exhaustive” internal review.
“As an organization, our top priority is to quickly identify the perpetrator and to make sure that person is brought to justice,” said a statement from Hacienda.
“Mr. Romley will have unfettered access to every facet of Hacienda’s business — including all the records related to this matter,” the statement said. “We will do everything we can to aid this review and, once it is complete, to make sure this unprecedented situation never, ever happens again.”
The woman’s caregivers were unaware that she was pregnant until she started to moan before giving birth on Dec. 29, an unidentified source told NBC affiliate KPNX.
A person is considered in a vegetative state when they are awake but not showing any signs of awareness, according to the Brain Foundation.
The woman is non-verbal and incapable of moving on her own, and has been at the facility for more than ten years after a near-drowning incident.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe said Tuesday that the patient is 29 and an enrolled member of its tribe.
An attorney for the woman’s family said in a statement to KPNX that the baby “has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for.”
“The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda HealthCare,” the attorney said.
Hacienda HealthCare is privately owned and has more than 40 Phoenix-based health care programs that serve 2,500 people a year, according to its website. A majority of its patients are infants, children, teens and young adults.
The facility’s chief executive, Bill Timmons, resigned Monday amid the investigation into the woman’s case.