A disabled woman who gave birth after authorities believe she was raped by a male nurse was sexually assaulted multiple times, likely resulting in a previous pregnancy, her lawyers have claimed.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, was charged with sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult after a patient at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix, Arizona unexpectedly gave birth to a baby boy in December, apparently shocking staff, who said they had no idea that the woman was pregnant. Sutherland pleaded not guilty in February.
The unnamed woman’s lawyers believe that she had been sexually assaulted multiple times and pregnant before, according to a $45 million notice of claim to the state of Arizona that was filed Wednesday, CNN reports. Also listed in the notice is the facility that the woman had been living in since the early 1990s.
Following an examination by the Maricopa County Medical Center, officials surmised that the woman had been “violated repeatedly” and referred to her giving birth as a “repeat parous event,” implying that she could have been pregnant before, CNN reports, adding that the documents do not specify if the previous alleged pregnancy was full term.
Her lawyers allege the multiple sexual assaults resulted in permanent physical and emotional pain for her and significant emotional distress for her parents.
The claim, which asks for a $25 million settlement for the patient as well as $10 million each for her parents, accuses Hacienda HealthCare and the state of Arizona of negligence. Lawyers claim that prior to the patient giving birth in December, staff “noticed increased abdominal distention, and firmness,” yet missed 83 opportunities to diagnosis her pregnancy. They also point the finger at the state for placing the patient at Hacienda and then allegedly failing to “exercise reasonable oversight” regarding the quality of care she received at the facility.
“The unspeakable atrocities ... occurred as a result of systemic and individual misconduct and mismanagement at the Hacienda (facility) and virtually nonexistent oversight on the part of the state,” the documents read.
Authorities connected Sutherland to the crime after testing the DNA of numerous male staff members at Hacienda and concluding that his sample matched the child’s DNA, NBC News reports.
The patient, a 29-year-old woman who has been hospitalized since the age of 3 due to intellectual disabilities stemming from childhood seizures, is non-verbal but is able to make facial expressions, respond to sounds, and move some of her limbs, the Associated Press reports.
The patient’s parents previously asked that only female workers be allowed near their daughter, and despite the facility agreeing to that request, male workers were allegedly allowed into her room alone, according to the claim.
If a settlement is not reached within two months, the patient’s lawyers will be taking the case to court, they said in the claim, according to CNN.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office did not respond to the outlet's request for comment and is attempting to reach out to Hacienda HealthCare.
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