- Associated Press - Friday, January 3, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - The parents of an incapacitated woman who was raped and later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care center say in a negligence lawsuit that the state of Arizona and her doctors failed to follow their request to have only female caregivers tend to their daughter.

The two doctors who cared for the 30-year-old patient at Hacienda HealthCare also are accused in the lawsuit of failing to spot signs that she was carrying a baby, such as her swollen abdomen. The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 only after a nurse saw the boy’s head during the surprise delivery.

The lawsuit said Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse charged with sexually assaulting the woman, had cared for her on hundreds of occasions from 2012 through 2018, despite promises from state employees that only women would tend to her.

The state, which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, is accused of doing a poor job of monitoring Hacienda’s operations.

Chris Minnick, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Health Services, declined Friday to comment on the lawsuit.



The birth triggered reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated and prompted the resignations of Hacienda’s chief executive.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 24 against Dr. Phillip Gear, who cared for the woman for a 25-year period ending in mid-September 2018, and Dr. Thanh Nguyen, who succeeded Gear.

Just For Kids, the medical practice that employed Gear, and Internal Medicine Consultants LLC, where Nguyen worked, also were sued.

The lawsuit said the woman would not have been sexually assaulted had Gear ensured that only female staffers cared for the patient.

A phone message left for Gear wasn’t immediately returned Friday. A woman who answered the phone at Just For Kids hung up twice when The Associated Press called seeking comment on the lawsuit.

No one answered the phone at Nguyen’s office on Friday afternoon, and Internal Medicine Consultants didn’t immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

The victim had lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the child’s birth. Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss. She was also left with no functional use of her limbs.

The woman’s mother is the boy’s guardian.

While the lawsuit mentions Hacienda HealthCare, the company wasn’t sued. Hacienda spokesman David Leibowitz didn’t immediate return a call Friday seeking comment.

Sutherland’s DNA matched a sample from the woman’s son, investigators say.

Sutherland, who wasn’t a target of the lawsuit, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

He was fired and gave up his nursing license after his arrest. His attorney, Edwin Molina, didn’t return a message Friday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit didn’t specify how much money her family was seeking. But an earlier notice of claim - a precursor to the lawsuit - requested $45 million.

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