ICE Hysterectomy Doctor Wasn’t Even a Board-Certified OB-GYN
This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.
The doctor at the center of a scandal over unwanted hysterectomies at an immigrant detention facility in Georgia is not a board certified OB-GYN, The Daily Beast has learned.
Dr. Mahendra Amin came under scrutiny after immigrant rights groups issued a report accusing him of conducting unnecessary or unwanted gynecological procedures on women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology told The Daily Beast that its records show Amin is not certified by the organization. A spokesperson for the American Board of Medical Specialties, the leading organization for physician board certification in the U.S., said Amin was not certified by any of the 24 ABMS member boards.
Azadeh Shahshahani, an attorney with one of the immigrant rights groups that filed the complaint, said it was “outrageous” that ICE would send detainees to a doctor who had not passed this quality control.
“It shows the lack of care that ICE feels for detained immigrants, for their wellbeing and healthcare,” said Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South. “It’s really disturbing.”
ICE declined to comment on the record about Amin’s certification or policies concerning board-certified physicians. The agency has previously said it “vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures,” and cautioned that “anonymous, unproven allegations” should be treated with skepticism.
Reached by text message, Amin declined to comment on his board certification and deferred all questions to his lawyer, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue.
Amin has practiced in Douglas, Georgia for at least two decades, both in his own private practice and as the medical director for the labor and delivery department at Irwin County Hospital. Business records reviewed by The Daily Beast show he also incorporated a new “Amin Surgery Center for Women” in September 2019, and sought state approvals to build the facility two months afterward. Gayle Evans, a consultant for the project, said the surgical center is still under construction and has not started seeing patients.
Amin completed medical school in India and a residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey. He appears to maintain an active license with the Georgia Composite Medical Board. A spokesperson for the organization said he could not answer questions on any ongoing complaints or investigations.
Earlier this week, a nurse at ICDC came forward to allege that an unnamed doctor, later identified as Amin, was surgically sterilizing a high number of immigrant women at the facility who “don’t know why they went [to the doctor] or why they’re going.” The nurse, Dawn Wooten, described Amin as “the uterus collector,” and claimed women often returned from his office confused and upset.
Since then, lawyers representing 17 detainees have claimed their clients received unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from Amin, according to the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has launched an investigation into the allegations, and the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee said his panel would also look into them.
An attorney for Amin said the doctor “vehemently den[ies]” Wooten’s allegations, noting that one of the whistleblower’s attorneys acknowledged not having spoken to any of the women directly in comments to the Washington Post.
“Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia,” attorney Scott Grubman said in a statement. “We look forward to all of the facts coming out and are confident that, once they do, Dr. Amin will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
Grubman did not respond to specific questions about Amin’s board certification.
Board certification is a voluntary process meant to enhance a specialist’s expertise beyond state licensure. (Georgia state law requires only one year of education after medical school to obtain a license.) Physicians seeking ABOG certification must pass a written and oral exam and demonstrate experience in treating women’s health care. They are also required to participate in a program to keep them abreast of the latest evidence-based treatments.
Marc Jackson, the vice president for education at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said board certification is “a key process that helps ensure that women’s health physicians maintain the necessary knowledge, skills, and competence that are needed to provide high-quality care.” Although the process is voluntary, the group finds it so important that it requires it for any fellows in the organization.
Court records show Amin has previously settled lawsuits with at least two patients or their family members outside the detention center. In one case, Amin was accused of discharging a pregnant patient despite “life threatening abnormal lab values.” According to the suit, the woman returned to the hospital 48 hours later with contractions, blurred vision, high blood pressure and vaginal bleeding. She received an emergency cesarean section and died shortly thereafter. In a court filing, Amin denied any negligence and any knowledge of the abnormal lab values.
In another case, the doctor settled with a mother who claimed that Amin and nurses at the Irwin County Hospital did not respond quickly enough when her baby’s heart rate plummeted during delivery, causing him to die of lack of oxygen. An attorney for the mother said it is common for an OB-GYN to face such suits, and that Amin’s conduct on this instance was “not anything that would go to any egregious behavior.”
Amin and eight other doctors at the Irwin County Hospital also agreed to pay $520,000 to the federal government in 2015, after the Department of Justice accused them of fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for services they did not provide. The complaint named Amin as the owner of MGA Health Management, which was contracted to run the hospital, and also identified him as a part owner of the institution.
According to the complaint, doctors at ICH billed the government for procedures as if they had performed them themselves, when in fact they were performed by nurses and technicians. The hospital also reportedly inflated the costs of CT scans, performed unnecessary tests on residents of the attached nursing home, tacked on pointless fees to operating room bills, and retaliated against a pair of whistleblowers.
The complaint further identifies a kickback scheme whereby Amin and other physicians directed patients to ICH instead of other institutions. Because of Amin’s ownership stake in ICH, he allegedly profited off every such referral.
According to the annual questionnaires ICH submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Health, MGA continued to manage the hospital until October 2015—six months after the settlement was finalized. It is unclear if Amin still maintains his ownership stake.
A number of women claiming to be Amin’s patients sprung to his defense after the whistleblower complaint was released, forming a Facebook page titled “We Stand With Mahendra Amin.” Dozens of women posted in the group to say they had happily delivered their babies with the doctor, and described him as attentive, generous, and kind.
But Elizabeth Mathrene, a Georgia immgiration attorney who used to represent women in the detention center, said several of her clients were concerned about the doctor. One woman, Nancy Gonzalez Hidalgo, refused to see Amin even when she had a fever and was doubled over in pain after a miscarriage, Mathrene said. She estimated four other women came to her in the same year to complain that they did not know why they were being taken to the doctor.
“The things that was most clear and troublesome was the similar accounts of him hurting them—that he was rough, he didn’t talk to them, he didn’t treat them like human beings,” Mathrene said. “They didn’t know what was happening with their situation and that made them fearful and upset and concerned.”
A second lawyer, Benjamin Osorio, told The Daily Beast that two of his clients received hysterectomies while detained at ICDC.
Shahshahani said her organization is still working on discerning the total number of women who received surgery against their will. While she described the attention given to the hysterectomies as “well-deserved,” she cautioned against putting all the blame on an individual doctor.
“At the end of the day, it was the doctor that was performing these procedures but the buck really stops with ICE,” she said. “The U.S. government had the responsibility for the welfare and protection of these women.”