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DNA samples of staff sought at Phoenix care center where woman in vegetative state gave birth

The San Carlos Apache Tribe claimed the woman is an enrolled member of its tribe.
Image: Hacienda Healthcare
Hacienda HealthCare has more than 40 programs in the Phoenix area. Ross D. Franklin / AP

Police investigators in Phoenix executed a search warrant Tuesday seeking DNA samples from male staff members at a long-term care center where a woman who has been in a vegetative state for nearly a decade gave birth last month.

The male employees at the Hacienda HealthCare center in Phoenix were asked to give the samples, but while the center said it welcomed "this development" in the investigation, it said it could not legally require the employees to comply.

"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 facility said in a statement. "We were told it would be a violation of federal law in either instance."

Meanwhile, a Native American tribe claimed Tuesday that the patient is 29 and an enrolled member of its tribe.

"On behalf of the Tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members," Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, said in the statement.

"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."

An attorney for the woman’s family said in a statement to NBC affiliate 12News in Phoenix that the family is not emotionally ready to make a public statement, but that "the family would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for."

"The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda HealthCare," the attorney said.

Hacienda HealthCare is privately owned and has more than 40 Phoenix-based health care programs that serve 2,500 people a year, according to its website. A majority of its patients are infants, children, teens and young adults.

The facility's chief executive, Bill Timmons, resigned Monday amid the investigation into the woman's case.

An unidentified source told 12News that the woman's caregivers at Hacienda weren't aware she was pregnant until she was in labor and started to moan before giving birth on Dec. 29.

The patient has been at the facility for about 10 years after a near-drowning incident, an unidentified source told local station KTVK.

The source, someone cited as being "familiar with the situation," said the baby is healthy.

A person is considered in a vegetative state when they are awake but not showing any signs of awareness, according to the Brain Foundation.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has said it is working with police in the criminal investigation and has conducted a welfare probe at Hacienda. And the state's Department of Economic Security, which promotes the safety and well-being of the population, said in a statement last week that it had performed a safety check on every patient residing at the facility and is working with police.