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Healthcare workers investigated after woman in vegetative state gives birth

Police are looking to collect DNA samples from male staff members of a Phoenix healthcare facility as part of a troubling sexual assault investigation.
/ Source: TODAY

Police are looking to collect DNA samples from male workers at an Arizona long-term care center after a woman who has been in a vegetative state for more than 10 years gave birth last month.

All male staff members at privately owned Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix were asked to give DNA samples on Tuesday as police try to determine how the woman, who has been identified as a 29-year-old member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, became pregnant.

Employees of Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix are being investigated after a woman in a vegetative state gave birth last month.
Employees of Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix are being investigated after a woman in a vegetative state gave birth last month. Ross D. Franklin / AP

Hacienda HealthCare told NBC News in a statement that it is cooperating with the investigation, but it couldn't force staffers to comply with the DNA testing.

"We had consulted attorneys to determine whether it would be legal for our company to compel our employees to undergo DNA testing conducted through Hacienda or for Hacienda to conduct voluntary genetic testing of staffers," the company said. "We were told it would be a violation of federal law in either instance."

The local website first reported last week that the woman, who was left in a vegetative state after a near-drowning incident more than a decade ago, had given birth to a baby boy. Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons resigned on Monday, the company said.

Hacienda "will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation, an unprecedented case that has devastated everyone involved, from the victim and her family to Hacienda staff at every level of our organization," Gary Orman, executive vice president of the board, said in the press release, according to NBC News.

The woman gave birth to a boy on Dec. 29. A source told NBC Phoenix affiliate 12News that employees didn't even know she was pregnant until she started moaning when she went into labor.

Records showed the woman, who is not able to talk or move, had been examined by staff eight months earlier, but no indication of pregnancy was found, 12News reported.

"The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda HealthCare,'' the family's attorney, John Michaels, said in a statement to 12News. "The baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for."

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Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, said he was "shocked and horrified" at the troubling prospect that the woman was sexually abused by a caregiver.

"When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers," Rambler said. "Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her."

Hacienda HealthCare has more than 40 Phoenix-based health care programs that serve 2,500 people a year, according to its website.