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Phoenix Police Collect DNA Samples After Patient In Vegetative State Gives Birth


In Phoenix, police are collecting DNA samples from all male employees of a long-term care facility. A patient there gave birth to a child. The woman's tribe says she has been in a persistent vegetative state for more than a decade. Stephanie Innes is a health reporter for the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. And she has been covering this story, which may not be appropriate for some listeners. Thank you for joining us.

STEPHANIE INNES: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: The facility where this took place was called Hacienda HealthCare. Tell us about what happened there.

INNES: On December 29, the Phoenix Police Department got a call that there was an infant in distress at Hacienda HealthCare's Hacienda de los Angeles facility. And when they arrived, they found that there was a woman who was incapacitated, and she had recently given birth.

SHAPIRO: The police held a press conference that you attended today. They are calling this a case of sexual assault. What else did you learn there?

INNES: They are asking for the public's assistance. They said that this is a highest priority for the department, and they would like the public's assistance. But they also have a wide scope out of people that they are testing for DNA samples. They wouldn't specify who, but they said it's a large number of individuals.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about the condition of the mother. What do you know?

INNES: Well, the mother is still in the hospital with her baby, and they are both recovering.

SHAPIRO: And she is a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe in southeastern Arizona.

INNES: That's right. And the tribe issued a statement saying that they are working with Phoenix police on this case, and the family has a lawyer. They released a statement saying that the baby was born - it's a baby boy born into a loving family and that the baby will be well cared for.

SHAPIRO: What has the response been from the facility that was supposed to be caring for this woman who was impregnated while apparently in a persistent vegetative state?

INNES: Well, one thing we don't know is whether staff knew that she was pregnant before she gave birth. I mean, the police didn't get the call until the baby was born. So we don't know whether the staff knew or if they just found out then. We also know that the CEO who was in charge at the time when she became pregnant and gave birth stepped down on Monday.

SHAPIRO: What kind of a facility is Hacienda HealthCare?

INNES: Well, the facility this woman was in is an intermediate - it's described as an intermediate-level facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Hacienda also cares for - it's got several programs to provide medical and therapeutic services for medically fragile infants, children and young adults.

SHAPIRO: Obviously, there are legal considerations here. Police are investigating. But there are also medical oversight questions here. This was a facility that was supposed to be caring for its patients and appears to have egregiously failed at that responsibility. What are the implications there?

INNES: Well, that's a good question that we are trying to find out ourselves. It's part of our coverage. And the police are working with several state agencies, including Adult Protective Services, the Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Arizona Department of Health Services. But we're trying to find out who is actually watchdogging for these vulnerable patients in these facilities. I mean, is it just their families or who from the state is watching out for them? And that's something we're trying to figure out.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, how unusual is it for all the male employees of a facility like this to be asked to give a DNA sample to the police?

INNES: How precedented is that or...

SHAPIRO: Exactly, yeah.

INNES: Yeah. You know, I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that they can compel the employees to give their DNA. They're asking them to do it voluntarily, but if they don't, they can get a court order and force them to do that. That was something that came out of the press conference today.

SHAPIRO: Stephanie Innes is a health reporter for the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Thank you.

INNES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.