Migrant women file lawsuit against doctor for alleged forced medical procedures
This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.
Lawyers representing a group of more than 40 migrant women on Monday filed a class-action lawsuit alleging abuse and forced medical procedures at a Georgia immigration detention center.
The 160-page legal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, argues that fourteen women identified as “Petitioners” in the case were each “subjected to, non-consensual, medically unindicated, and/or invasive gynecological procedures by Mahendra Amin,” a doctor at the at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC).
The lawsuit adds that after the women attempted to speak out against such abuse, detention center officials “retaliated against them in order to silence them,” including by placing or threatening to place them in solitary confinement, on cell restriction or transferring the women to other units to separate them from each other.
The lawsuit also outlined other alleged retaliatory measures taken against the women, such as physical assault “including while they were handcuffed,” the legal filing states.
About 40 women have filed sworn testimony in the case, “revealing a relentless pattern of unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures, including unwanted gynecological surgeries and other non-consensual medical interventions,” according to a statement released with the complaint.
The lawsuit also includes testimony from gynecological and mental health experts, and statements from the women describing their experiences.
The group has also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order calling for “an immediate end to retaliation against women for speaking out, compensation for the harms they have suffered, and writs from the court requiring [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE to make the women available to fully participate in the lawsuit, or alternatively, to release the women from the detention center.”
The groups who filed the lawsuit, which include law firms and organizations such as the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), are also calling for President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration and Congress to “correct the wrongs of [President] Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda by closing the Irwin County Detention Center and investigating all ICE officers and contractors who turned a blind eye against the abuse the women suffered under their supervision.”
The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged mistreatment at the detention facility. The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also investigating the case.
The lawsuit comes after four human rights advocacy groups in September filed a whistleblower report with DHS with information provided by Dawn Wooten, an ICDC nurse. The report included allegations of widespread medical malpractice, including subpar COVID-19 treatment and “red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women.”
Detainees interviewed for the report alleged that women were sent to a gynecologist who seemingly over-prescribed the hysterectomy procedure, and in some cases, ICDC officials and the doctor failed to fully explain the consequences or receive full consent from patients subjected to hysterectomies.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy—just about everybody,” said Wooten, according to the report.
ICE spokesperson Lindsay Williams said in a statement to The Hill at the time that the agency does not comment on matters before the Office of Inspector General (OIG), but “takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results.”