Nurse Abuse

Amber Hawkes, News Writer

Nathan Sutherland, a nurse in an  Arizona care facility, was charged with rape after a woman in vegetative state gave birth in December. The term ‘vegetative state’ means when a person appears to be ‘awake’ but the show no signs of awareness. The woman is reported to have been in a vegetative state due to seizures as a child, and has been in the Hacienda Healthcare since she was a child. This term becomes problematic due to the parents account of her state of awareness and ability. “Though she was initially described as comatose, her parents said in a written statement that although she was disabled she could respond to sound, make facial gestures and had some ability to move her limbs, head and neck.” says Reuters, in an article for New York Times. However, even with this fact she was in no means able to consent.


However, this isn’t the first incident in which this situation has occurred. In early 2018, there was a lawsuit filed in Pensacola, Florida against Pensacola Cluster, a long term health care center. The lawsuit was for the rape of a 23 year old woman with severe retardation who had been in the center for 8 years. “The suit states that the woman is ‘physically incapable’ of causing such injury to herself and that because of her disabilities, she is ‘unable to knowingly and voluntarily give consent to sexual intercourse.’” says Alanna Vagianos, in an article for Huffington Post. After these two incidents being big in the news, we have to look at the bigger issue that this has been going on for quite some time.


In America over 16,000 cases of sexual assault or abuse were reported. In many cases the accused pleaded not guilty. In one case in particular an 89 year old woman with dementia, accused a nurse of rape. However, he said that he had consensual sex with the woman. “In other instances, nursing home employees and administrators are hamstrung in their efforts to protect victims who can’t remember exactly what happened to them or even identify their perpetrators.” wrote Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, in an article on CNN. This could become even more problematic at the fact that we don’t know if more people in these facilities are being assaulted and can’t remember or are unable to report it.


Although, this is not the only issue with these facilities. Many times when a victim tries to express that an assault took place it is overlooked. “A son of a different alleged victim, who had accused an unknown perpetrator, said he was irate he was never told that a pattern of complaints had emerged against a single caregiver. Had he known of this pattern, the son said, he would have taken his mother’s report of abuse more seriously. Instead, he trusted Walker Methodist.” wrote Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, in the same article on CNN. The amount of trust people are putting into the care facilities can out way the belief they have in their family members claim.


Trust being abused in these facilities is becoming more common. We as a society need to recognize this issue in order to take actions to stop it. As well as recognizing it when gathering a suspicion of abuse or if a patient tries to report abuse it needs to be taken more seriously. There also needs to be more security and supervision over the facilities. In order to protect patients in these care facilities everyone needs to be aware of the issues happening within them.