Police in Phoenix, Ariz., are investigating after a woman in a persistent vegetative state reportedly gave birth at a long-term care facility where she’s been a patient for over 10 years.
The alleged incident occurred at Hacienda HealthCare, a facility that provides long-term health care for children and young adults with chronic illnesses and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The patient has been in a vegetative state since a near-drowning incident more than 10 years ago, according to a report from CBS 5, the local television station. The patient’s identity has not been revealed.
Global News has not been able to verify the allegations in the CBS 5 story.
“The matter is being investigated by the Phoenix police department,” Sgt. Tommy Thompson told Global News on Friday. He declined to provide any further details.
“None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth,” a source familiar with the situation told CBS 5.
WATCH: ‘My heart hurts’: family members of patients react over facility where woman in vegetative state gave birth
Staff noticed she was in labour when they heard her moaning, according to the source. The woman reportedly gave birth to a live baby boy on Dec. 29 with help from a nurse who worked at the facility.
The source said the patient could not communicate. She also required round-the-clock care and many people would have had access to her room.
“I was told that as of now, if a male staff needs to enter a female room, they need to bring in a female employee with them,” the individual told CBS 5.
Global News has reached out to Hacienda HealthCare for comment.
Hacienda HealthCare serves more than 2,500 people throughout Arizona each year, according to its website.
“Hacienda HealthCare has been in business in the valley for over 50 years and has an outstanding reputation (for) providing high-quality specialized care for our patients,” a spokesperson for the organization told CBS 5 in a statement. She declined to comment specifically on the case, citing privacy laws and the “ongoing investigation.”
“We can say that our patients’ and clients’ health and safety is our No. 1 priority and that we always co-operate, when asked by any agency, in an open and transparent way,” the spokesperson continued.
The alleged birth raises troubling questions about the patient’s care and civil rights, according to Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine.
“What I find most troubling about this case… is the fact that a patient could be in a medical facility and be pregnant and no one could have noticed that,” Fins told Global News.
He explained that individuals in a vegetative state are typically kept alive via feeding tubes, and their weight is usually monitored on a regular basis. “She obviously gained weight because she was pregnant, and that should have been noticed,” he said.
Officials at the Arizona Department of Health Services say they are “aware of this situation and are actively working with local law enforcement in their criminal investigation.”
The department has requested additional monitoring in patient care areas, a spokesperson told CBS 5.