A whistleblower is accusing doctors at an ICE detention center of surgically removing the wombs of some immigrant detainees
This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.
A nurse at a Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility is accusing the detention center of allowing an unusual number of hysterectomies to be performed on immigrants detained there, often without their consent.
In a whistleblower complaint sent by Project South to the Department of Homeland Security and its inspector general, a nurse named Dawn Wooten described poor treatment of migrants detained at the Irwin County Detention Center, including limited and negligent medical care and minimal testing for COVID-19.
“Ms. Wooten’s account of the treatment of people in ICE custody is horrifying,” Silky Shah, the executive director of Detention Watch Network, a nonprofit that also helped file the complaint, told Business Insider in a statement. “People’s lives are at risk in immigration detention, and ICE has continued to prove through its record of medical neglect that no one is safe in its custody.”
The facility is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company, Law and Crime reported.
Business Insider could not reach LaSalle Corrections on Monday, but the company said in a statement to The Intercept: “LaSalle Corrections is firmly committed to the health and welfare of those in our care. We are deeply committed to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments.”
ICE did not reply to Business Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication.
The whistleblower complaint alleges that immigrant women were frequently sent to a gynecologist outside the detention center who frequently chose to remove all or a portion of detainees’ uterus, or womb.
One detained immigrant said she spoke with five women who were at the facility from October to December of last year, all of whom had a hysterectomy done.
“We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out,” Wooten said, according to the complaint, adding: “That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly … is he collecting these things or something … Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world.”
She also said that one young woman needed an ovary removed because of a cyst but that the doctor removed the wrong ovary — ultimately requiring the removal of both ovaries.
“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 said. “She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy. She still wanted children — so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids … she said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary.”
Wooten was among multiple people described in the complaint as saying that some women did not know that the procedure was being performed on them or were not told what exactly the procedure entailed.
“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” Wooten said.
Another woman reported being given three different answers about what procedure would be done on her.
The complaint also described accusations of limited COVID-19 testing at the facility, a lack of adequate medical care including not giving detainees life-saving medications, and overall neglect of detainees who complained of pain.