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What Happened at Hacienda HealthCare?


The Incident

On December 29, 2019, a rattled and bewildered medical staffer called 911 after a patient started giving birth. The dispatcher struggled to get information from the staffer, who could only repeat, “They baby’s turning blue! The baby’s turning blue!” When the dispatcher asked for the staffer’s location, the call mysterious disconnected.

This was the first hint that something had gone terribly wrong at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, Arizona. When the staffer called 911 again because the baby still wasn’t breathing, she finally revealed the hospital’s location and admitted that no one even knew the 29-year-old patient was pregnant.  What the caller didn’t mention is that the victim has been in a vegetative state since 1992.

News channels across the country immediately began reporting on this horrifying incident. As facts, assumptions, and rumors started circulating, there was only one question on everyone’s minds: how did this even happen?

The Investigation

Hacienda HealthCare touts itself as a leading provider of medical care services for children and young adults suffering from developmental disabilities. However, the “dedicated staff” at this location somehow failed to realize that one of their patients was raped – presumably more than once – and impregnated by a nurse.

According to the victim’s family, their daughter is aware of what’s happened both to and around her, even if she’s unable to move her body, make facial gestures, or respond to sounds. Tragically, she doesn’t possess the physical or cognitive ability to call for help or report the injustice, let alone understand what was happening to her body throughout the duration of her pregnancy.

This horrendous sexual assault case trigged an immediate police investigation, as well as internal investigations by state regulatory agencies. Law enforcement officials worked tirelessly to investigate the incident, and even obtained court orders to collect DNA samples from every male employee working at the facility.

Subsequent DNA tests revealed that the perpetrator is Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old licensed practical nurse who has been working at Hacienda HealthCare since 2011. According to court paperwork, Sutherland “worked around the victim and treated her on numerous occasions and thus had direct access to her for an extended period of time.” He was booked and charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.

Taking the Path to Justice

While this crime may seem like a scene straight out of Kill Bill Vol. 1, it’s also an unfortunate reality that many helpless victims deal with on a regular basis. In recent years, hospitals have been facing intense public, legal, and professional scrutiny for failing to prevent (and sometimes report) cases of patient sexual assault. Amidst threats of closure and mass employee terminations, Hacienda HealthCare has become a cautionary tale for members of the medical community. But this brings little comfort to the patients and families that rely on this facility’s services.

If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted by a medical professional, contact the Charleston sexual abuse lawyers at Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC. Our legal team can investigate your case, represent your interests, and help you hold both the abuser and the facility accountable for their respective actions and negligence.

Contact Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC at (843) 968-0886 to schedule a free consultation. We represent clients in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

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