Democrats in Congress are currently investigating claims that doctors have administered hysterectomies to women in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center without consent while exposing detainees to unsafe conditions – even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The allegations come from whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a licensed general practitioner who worked for three years at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, Intercept reports. Her allegations are contained in a thorough complaint filed on behalf of Wooten with the Inspector General’s Office by the Project South and Government Government Accountability Project stakeholders.
Wooten “expressed concern about the high number of migrant women detained at the ICDC who received hysterectomies,”
But it’s not just the sheer number of hysterectomies that is worrying, but also that many of the surgeries allegedly took place without proper consent, claims Wooten. “I have learned from several inmates that they went to the doctor and had hysterectomies and did not know why they left or why they left,” she says in the letter. The complaint contains several stories of incarcerated women who had hysterectomies without fully understanding the procedure. In some cases, according to Wooten, nurses would look up Spanish translations on Google or ask other detainees to explain the procedure, rather than using the line of language established for the purpose.
The complaint also reports serious problems in the event of medical misconduct. For example, after a case in the complaint, an incarcerated woman had a cyst on an ovary that needed to be removed, but the doctor removed the wrong ovary. According to the complaint, the woman had both ovaries removed.
In addition to problems with operations, Wooten is throwing flags on a number of other issues indicative of serious medical neglect and abuse at the detention center, including the way the facility and its staff have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the complaint, Wooten alleges that the facility has failed to adequately report COVID-19 cases and has refused to test incarcerated people with known exposure to the virus (including those with symptoms) in order for employees who test positive for the coronavirus Keep working In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are being ignored in the public health sector.
For its part, ICE “vehemently” denies the allegations, said Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC), in a statement to the AP. It should also be noted that the Irwin County Detention Center is one of the many facilities in the country where ICE contracts detainees to be detained. This facility is operated by a private company, LaSalle Corrections, which operates 18 detention centers in the south, reports Intercept.
On Tuesday, a group of more than 160 Democratic Congressmen sent a letter to the Inspector General asking for an investigation, the AP reports. “Reports of mass hysterectomies give cause for concern about the violation of physical autonomy and reproductive rights of detainees,” the letter said. “Everyone, regardless of immigration status, language or incarceration, deserves to control their own reproductive decisions and make informed decisions about their bodies. We request that you investigate these reports immediately. ”
The letter also states that these reports “date back to a dark period in US history” when 32 states passed eugenic sterilization laws that resulted in the sterilization of up to 70,000 people in the early 20th century. “This shameful history of sterilization in the United States, especially the sterilization of colored people and inmates, must never be repeated,” the letter said. “Still, the similarities to reports from migrants and nurses at the Irwin County Detention Center are eerily similar today.”
The House Homeland Security Committee is already working on an ongoing investigation into conditions at ICE contractor facilities such as the Irwin County Detention Center. Now Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of that committee, says they will investigate these new claims as well. “The allegations made in this whistleblower complaint indicate an alarming pattern of unsafe conditions and lack of oversight in privately owned ICE facilities,” he said in a statement, calling the claims of hysterectomies “incredibly worrying”.