Police investigating the case of a woman in a long-term vegetative state giving birth last month served a search warrant Tuesday for DNA samples of male staff at the long-term care center where she was a patient.
Male staff members at a Hacienda Healthcare center in Phoenix, Arizona, were asked to give DNA samples as part of an investigation into how the patient got pregnant, according to a press release from the long-term care facility.
Hacienda Healthcare said, "We welcome this development" in the investigation, adding that it would be illegal for the organization to require employees to submit DNA.
"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. "We were told it would be a violation of federal law in either instance."
Meanwhile, a Native American tribe released a statement Tuesday claiming the patient is 29 years old 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. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her," the tribe chairman 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 NBC-affiliate 12News in Phoenix 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 in a vegetative state and 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 on the investigation.