Nurse arrested after vulnerable patient gives birth in US clinic

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Mugshot of the suspectImage source, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Image caption,
Nathan Sutherland, 36, was responsible for the woman's care, authorities said

A nurse in Arizona has been charged with sexual assault after a vulnerable patient under his care gave birth.

The suspect has been named as Nathan Sutherland, 36, who worked at the Hacienda Healthcare clinic.

The 29-year-old patient, who has reportedly been in the care of the clinic since she was a toddler, gave birth on 29 December.

Staff at the facility said at the time that they were unaware she was pregnant until she went into labour.

The child, a boy, is now in the care of the patient's family and is said to be doing well.

"We can't always choose how we come into this life, but we as a community can choose to love this child," Police Sgt Tommy Thompson told reporters.

How was the arrest made?

Phoenix police chief Jeri Williams said Mr Sutherland was identified through "good old-fashioned police work".

After the birth, an investigation was launched into sexual assault because the woman's condition renders her unable to give consent.

Mr Sutherland submitted a DNA sample under a court order. A test showed his DNA positively matched with the child.

He has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of abusing a vulnerable adult.

"We owed this arrest to the victim," Chief Williams said. "We owed this arrest to the newest member of our community, that innocent baby."

Image source, Google Street View

Police are also investigating whether Mr Sutherland has assaulted any other patients.

It is unclear whether he was an employee or contractor who worked at any other facilities.

What have her family said?

A lawyer for the woman's family, John Michaels, said they were aware of Mr Sutherland's arrest but had no comment.

The patient's family have described her as "a beloved daughter" with "significant intellectual disabilities" caused by seizures in childhood.

Mr Michaels, told local media: "She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family."

Court documents state that the woman is "not alert" and requires a "maximum level of care", the Arizona Republic reported.

According to medical records presented to an Arizona court, a doctor gave a check-up to the woman 37 weeks before she gave birth and found no major changes to her health.

What do we know about the suspect?

Mr Sutherland is a licensed practical nurse and had worked at Hacienda Healthcare clinic since 2011, authorities said.

At the time of the assault he had been responsible for care of the woman.

On Wednesday, he appeared in court and was released on a cash-only $500,000 (£382,588) bond.

His lawyer David Gregan described Mr Sutherland as a family man with young children who has lived in Arizona since 1993.

"There's no direct evidence that Mr Sutherland has committed these acts," Mr Gregan told reporters.

"I know at this point there's DNA. But he will have a right to his own DNA expert."

How has the care facility responded?

In a statement, Hacienda Healthcare said it was "troubled beyond words" by the news.

The firm said it had given Mr Sutherland "an extensive background check" before starting at the clinic, and fired him as soon as its leadership team learned of the arrest.

Its chief executive has resigned over the incident.