Investigation urged of doctor who operated on immigrant women in detention

By: - December 8, 2021 12:15 am

Congress was alerted last year to the problems at the detention center by a whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked at the Irwin County Detention Center. Courtesy of the Georgia Recorder, States Newsroom.

WASHINGTON — Two congressional panels are calling for Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to investigate a doctor who was accused of performing gynecological procedures on immigrant women in a Georgia detention center without their consent or full understanding of the treatment being performed.

In a Dec. 3 letter, Democrats on the House Homeland Security and Oversight & Reform committees demanded that Dr. Mahendra Amin be prevented from giving medical treatment to migrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.

They also asked the Department of Homeland Security to outline what steps the agency is taking to provide migrants with appropriate medical care.

The Democrats also said they are concerned that Amin “may have been performing unnecessary surgical procedures to defraud DHS and the Federal government without consequences.”

“We are also concerned that people at other detention facilities may be receiving similarly inappropriate or inadequate medical treatment,” they said.

Congress was alerted last year to the problems at the detention center by a whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked at the Irwin County Detention Center.

She said that a “high amount” of hysterectomies were performed on women at the Georgia facility. A hysterectomy removes the uterus, and sometimes ovaries, meaning an individual can’t menstruate or get pregnant.

In her complaint, Wooten said the doctor who performed the gynecological procedures was known as “the uterus collector.”

The House Oversight & Reform and Homeland Security committees launched their own investigations and found “concerning issues uncovered during staff visits to facilities, including deficiencies in the medical, dental, and mental health care available to migrants held in ICE detention.”

The committees had Dr. Tony Ogburn, a professor and chair of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, review detention facility records maintained by LaSalle Corrections.

LaSalle Corrections is a company that provides correctional staff for immigration detention facilities in Georgia, Texas and Louisiana. Its contract for the Irwin County Detention Center has been terminated, and the Democrats said DHS is conducting a review.

“Although Dr. Ogburn could not conclude whether patients received unwanted hysterectomies, he found that Dr. Amin did not meet acceptable standards of care,” the lawmakers said.

Ogburn was so concerned with the treatment that Amin provided, that he wrote a letter of complaint to the Georgia Composite Medical Board, the state agency that licenses physicians.

“My concern is that he was not competent and simply did the same evaluation and treatment on most patients because that is what he knew how to do, and/or he did tests and treatments that generated a significant amount of reimbursement without benefitting most patients,” Ogburn wrote in his letter to the Georgia Composite Medical Board.

The Democrats requested a briefing from DHS by Dec. 16.

In that briefing, they want to know if DHS has reviewed treatment that Amin provided to women in ICE custody and what those findings are; if the agency has made any referrals to the Justice Department related to Amin; and what efforts have been made to ensure that migrants in ICE custody are getting proper medical care.

“What steps is DHS taking to ensure that other doctors are not providing substandard care or engaging in unethical practices when treating migrants in ICE custody?” they asked.

Democrats who signed the letter include the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi; the chair of the House Oversight & Reform Committee, Carolyn Maloney of New York; the chair of the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations, Nanette Barragán of California; and chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.

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