Personal Injury

Comatose nursing home patient may have suffered during childbirth

elderly woman in hospital bed pulseox sensor SMALL Comatose nursing home patient may have suffered during childbirthThe woman in a decade-long persistent vegetative state who gave birth to a healthy baby boy last month to the surprise of her family and the staff at the Phoenix, Arizona nursing home where she lived, may have suffered great pain during labor and delivery, a maternal fetal medicine expert told CNN.

“I can tell you that to go through labor and deliver a baby with absolutely no analgesic is difficult, but I can’t speculate as to what this patient felt, if she felt any pain, if she knew it was happening,” said Dr. Deborah Feldman, director of maternal fetal medicine at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. “It’s so sad she had to endure that. It’s awful.”

Dr. Feldman has no direct knowledge of the woman’s case, but 20 years ago she treated a woman who suffered a stroke in her second trimester. In that case, the stroke left the mother brain-dead, but she went on to deliver the baby. Dr. Feldman said she cannot speculate whether the nursing home patient knew she was pregnant or even in labor without knowing the specifics of the recent case involving the nursing home patient.

People are diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state when they have been unconscious and in a coma for a prolonged period of time. Unlike brain-dead patients, they can breathe on their own. In some cases, their internal organs still function properly, which enables women to become pregnant. Yet, “it’s very rare,” with only two or three pregnancy cases reported in the past 20 years, Dr. Feldman said.

The nursing home resident suffered brain damage after a near-drowning about 10 years ago, which left her in a persistent vegetative state. She had been living at Hacienda HealthCare under around-the-clock care ever since.

While much remains unknown about the case, the woman was clearly unable to give consent to anyone making sexual advances, and is very likely a victim of sexual assault. Phoenix Police Department are investigating the case as such. Earlier this month, the facility’s longtime chief executive resigned.

A representative from Hacienda HealthCare said the company was committed to helping police with the investigation, and even considered conducting voluntary genetic testing of its staff, but dropped the plan after its  attorneys said it would be illegal.

New York Times