Georgia Nurse Speaks Out on Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Center
A whistleblower has alleged that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is performing unnecessary medical procedures on female detainees.
Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Irwin County, Georgia, has alleged that the center performed unnecessary medical procedures, including hysterectomies, on female detainees. Wooten filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security on Monday.
Lawyers representing clients at the center have identified the doctor as Dr. Mahendra Amin. He was involved in a Justice Department investigation in 2015 for making false claims to Medicaid and Medicare, and as a result, he and other doctors involved paid $525,000 in a civil settlement. "Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody," Wooten said in her complaint. "He's even taken out the wrong ovary on a young [detained immigrant woman]. She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary; he took out the right one. She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy."
Elizabeth Mathren, a lawyer who represented several women who saw Dr. Amin beginning in 2017, said she brought their complaints to managers of the detention facility. "Two to three years ago, I had a face-to-face conversation with [someone in management]," she told NBC News. "I was so disturbed. I begged her to get my client treatment with a different doctor. I told her I had heard from multiple people that he was rough, that they were scared to go to him, that they didn't understand what he was doing." Mathren also said she had one client report bruising after being examined by Dr. Amin, and alleged that women have continually been sent to Amin despite constant complaints.
A spokesperson for ICE said that the agency does not comment on "matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security," but also said that "anonymous, unproven allegations" should be treated with "skepticism."
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have begun calling for an immediate investigation into the situation at the center. "If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint — including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women — are a staggering abuse of human rights," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint. Congress and the American people need to know why and under what conditions so many women, reportedly without their informed consent, were pushed to undergo this extremely invasive and life-altering procedure."