PHOENIX — The woman who gave birth at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix is not in a vegetative state or comatose, according to her family's lawyer.
John Micheaels, the attorney representing the woman and her family, said she has "significant intellectual disabilities" but has "some awareness."
"She is able to respond to family when they are in the room in terms of making facial expressions," Micheaels said in a statement. "She doesn’t speak. She likes to be read to. She likes soft music."
The woman gave birth on Dec. 29 at the facility located near 14th Street and Baseline Road, sparking a rape investigation by Phoenix police. Employees at the Phoenix facility reportedly did not know the woman was pregnant. A physical exam was performed on the woman eight months before she gave birth.
12 News had previously reported that the woman was in a vegetative state based on a number of reports, including a Phoenix police report released Jan. 9 that referred to the woman as “incapacitated” and a letter from the San Carlos tribe on Jan. 8 that said the woman “has been in a persistent vegetative state and coma for over a decade.”
But Micheaels said reports that she is in a coma or in a vegetative state are "really not accurate."
12 News took public health records of the patient and the family's statement to Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD family physician.
"It's important for us to differentiate if this person was in a minimally conscious state or in a persistent vegetative state," Bhuyan said. "In both of the states, we see patients blinking, both cases, the patients are looking around, both have reflexes— But the question is: Are those actions purposeful or not?"
Bhuyan said she could not tell which state the patient at Hacienda Healthcare is in based on the medical records or the family's statement. She said the line is often fine and makes it difficult for even doctors to tell the difference.
As a general rule, patients in a vegetative state are awake, but not aware. Those in a minimally conscious state are both awake and somewhat aware. Bhuyan said it can be difficult to tell if someone responding to someone is a natural reaction, or if there is actual thought behind an action.
The attorney representing the woman's family says the woman is able to respond to family members by making facial expressions.
"Her eyes are open. She doesn’t track things that are going on. The medical records reflect she responds to pain, she withdraws from pain," Micheaels said.
He also said she "grimaces when there is something unpleasant, but it's on a much more limited basis."
Micheaels released a statement from the woman's family Tuesday saying she has "some ability to move her limbs, head and neck."
"The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities," the statement read.
"At the end of the day, her rights as a human being were violated so it almost doesn't matter if she was in a persistent vegetative state or a minimally conscious state. There was still a crime that was committed and it was a horrifying crime," Bhuyan said.
Micheaels also said reports the woman nearly drowned when she was young, resulting in her entering the care of Hacienda Healthcare, are also " inaccurate."
In the statement, Micheaels said the woman has had seizures since she was very young.
The criminal investigation is ongoing. Phoenix police served a search warrant on Jan. 8 for DNA tests of male employees. The state also requested pregnancy and STD testing for all Hacienda patients earlier this month.
As of Monday, two physicians at Hacienda Healthcare who were responsible for the woman's care are no longer providing medical services at the facility.
Hacienda Healthcare said one of the doctors resigned while the other was suspended.
Bill Timmons, the company's former CEO, resigned shortly after news of the birth spread.