How One Woman Blew the Whistle on ICE’s Alleged Unethical Medical Practices Towards Detained Immigrants. 

 

By Jennifer Yin 

jyin4@mail.ccsf.edu 

 

Allegations of a Womb Collector

 

A licensed nurse, Dawn Wooten came forward on Sept. 14, with allegations of medical malpractice in the form of nonconsensual procedures against immigrants detained at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga. 

 

Wooten, who was previously employed at the detention center reported how ICDC physicians were performing hysterectomies on women without their consent or knowledge of the procedure, according to an article published by Business Insider.

 

A source held at ICDC mentioned by NPR said, “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.” 

Illustration by Jennifer in/The Guardsman

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus due to diagnoses such as ovarian cancer. 

 

The National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) website stated, “It’s incredibly unlikely that a doctor will perform a hysterectomy on women ages 18-35 unless it is absolutely necessary for their well-being and no other options will suffice. This is because of possible physical and emotional risks.

 

NWHN stated long-term complications of hysterectomies in younger women include: an increased risk of stroke, bone loss, heart attacks, urinary issues, and early onset menopause. In addition, the procedure also prevents the possibility of biological pregnancies which may cause psychological distress in some women.   

 

The physician in question is Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has maintained an active license within Georgia’s Composite Medical Board, and has been in practice for the last 20 years. He is the medical director for the labor and delivery department at ICDC.

 

The Daily Beast, an American opinion website, stated how Dr. Amin was declared uncertified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), with the American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS) confirming that the physician was not certified by its 24 board members. 

 

Associate Vice President of Communications at ABMS said, “He is NOT, N-O-T, one of our doctors. He is not certified by any of our boards. That’s all we have to say.”  

 

However, Business Insider explained how physicians are not required to pass their board certification unless they wish to expand their skills or establish credibility within their field. 

 

Dr. Amin’s attorney, Scott Grubman has publicly denounced Wooten’s allegations in a statement made to The Washington Post.

 

Grubman told 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. 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.” 

 

This will not be the first lawsuit filed against the physician, or “womb collector” as Wooten has coined him. 

 

The Daily Beast mentioned how Dr. Amin settled two lawsuits pertaining to his former patients and their families. Allegations in one lawsuit accused the physician of discharging a pregnant patient, though her lab results accounted for “life-threatening abnormal lab levels. The patient was later readmitted for an emergency cesarean section but later died from complications. 

 

Dr. Amin has since denied any abnormal lab levels associated with the lawsuit.

 

Reactions from the Public 

 

Reactions from various social media platforms depicted Wooten as a hero for filing the whistleblower complaint. 

 

One illustrated Instagram post by Your Rights Camp, a youth campaign founded by racial justice activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick displayed Wooten saying, “I became a whistleblower. Now I’m a target, but I’ll take a target any day to do what’s right than just sit there and be a part of something inhumane.” 

 

She is now being represented by Dana Gold, with the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organization and Project South, a social justice advocacy group. In addition, a coalition of human rights groups has broadened her complaint to a 27-page document which incorporated statements from detained immigrants at ICDC. 

 

The complaint was further filed with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. 

 

Project South Staff Attorney Priyanka Bhatt said, “Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years: gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions at Irwin.”

 

A group of legislators including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) have called upon the Department of Homeland Security to further investigate Wooten’s claims. 

 

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights,” said Pelosi in an NPR article. “This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought.” 

 

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made a statement with the Associated Press, stating the severity of Wooten’s allegations. However, ICE further added how anonymous and unproven allegations should be treated with the appropriate skepticism it deserved. 

 

Is There Skepticism in the Air? 

 

There has been a recent pushback from the community where Dr. Amin practices, according to Prism Reports, a BIPOC-led non-profit news outlet. The outlet reported that the small community is said to view the physician as a, “pillar in the community.” 

 

In addition, claims against Wooten from previously detained immigrants have suggested that the former nurse was complicit in the abuse and had full knowledge of the hysterectomies taking place at the facility. One former detainee suggested that Wooten also joked and made fun of people, who were detained at ICDC. 

 

Wooten declined to speak to Prism regarding the allegations. 

 

Gold said, “Dawn witnessed systemic abuses at ICDC. When she raised concerns about the operating procedures to her superiors, they demoted her. She came forward to expose and validate grave mistreatment of detained immigrants at Irwin because she believes in the need for systematic change and accountability from the top down.”

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