Immigrants at a detention center in Georgia were allegedly subjected to hysterectomies

This article features Government Accountability Project and our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here.

A nurse at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Ocilla, Georgia, claimed in a whistleblower complaint published Monday that female detainees have been subjected to a troublingly high number of hysterectomies while in custody.

The complaint was filed by a nurse, Dawn Wooten, in cooperation with a coalition of immigrant rights groups led by Project South, a nonprofit activist group.

The complaint accuses the Irwin County Detention Center, operated by the private prison contractor LaSalle Corrections detention center, of a litany of health and safety violations. But its most explosive claim is that immigrant women held there are subjected to hysterectomies, which it says are performed unusually frequently.

The detainees, many of whom have limited English skills, were allegedly sent to a gynecologist outside the facility who performed the hysterectomies, often without them fully understanding why they were getting the procedure done. One woman was told it was because she had a “thick womb” or “heavy bleeding,” even though she had never experienced heavy bleeding or been told by a doctor previously that she had a thick womb, according to the complaint.

“Several immigrant women” have told Project South about the hysterectomies, the complaint says. One woman, who is not named in the complaint, told the nonprofit that she talked to five immigrants who had the procedure done between October and December 2019.

Wooten, who is named in the complaint, said the frequency of hysterectomies has raised concerns for her and other nurses: “We’ve questioned among ourselves, like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out. … That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector.”

The doctor was not identified in the complaint, and Azadeh Shahshahani, Project South’s legal and advocacy director, refused to identify him publicly on Tuesday. But Prism identified the doctor as Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist associated with Coffee Regional Medical Center and Irwin County Hospital in Georgia. In 2015, he and several other doctors reached a more than $500,000 civil settlement with Georgia prosecutors to resolve allegations that they submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid and Medicare.