In Phoenix, Arizona, a 29-year-old female patient who has been a vegetative state for more than a decade at Hacienda Healthcare center gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The staff had no idea she was pregnant until she went into labor and gave birth on December 29th. She had an apparently been raped several times.
Family members for the woman have declined to give a public statement, but their attorney told Huffington Post,”The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda Healthcare. … [They] would like me to convey that the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for.”
Coming so soon after the post here about the ethics issues surrounding the death old a fetus, this news story prompted several readers to inquire here. Some observations:
- Bill Timmons, the CEO of the health facility, has resigned or been fired. Good. Such a thing could not happen in a competently run facility.
- Not surprisingly, the parent company of the facility was already under investigation. Negligence and lack of oversight on that scale could not be an anomaly.
- Imagine the level of inattention it took for no one caring for the woman to realize she was pregnant for nine months. Many nurses, feeding, washing and care, and nobody noticed. This is more than patient abuse by the rapists.
- My guess is that such inattention to vegetative patients is rampant in such facilities, even routine.
- I won’t say rape is routine, but I doubt that it’s rare, either.
- If the pregnancy was discovered at any point before the birth, is there any doubt that there would have been an immediate, undisclosed abortion?
- Is there any doubt that this is why we have never seen this kind of episode before?
- An unborn child of a vegetative mother, conceived by rape or not, has as much right to live as any other unborn child. The condition of the mother and the means of conception are irrelevant to that life.
- Since the woman’s “right to choose” is not involved when a mother is vegetative (or dead), and should not be transferable, an abortion of such a child should be per se illegal. It is unquestionably unethical.
- The institution should be responsible for the costs of caring for and raising the child its negligent management created.