Whistleblower Nurse Alleges Mass Hysterectomies Being Done at an ICE Detention Center

Modesto Morganelli
Settembre 16, 2020

The complaint joined Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigration Support Network in a broader report that outlined their concerns to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

Sarah Owings, a Georgia-based immigration attorney, told Reuters she and other advocates were collecting information about hysterectomies performed on detainees, and had put out a call to attorneys to review their files.

Wooten says that numerous nurses tried to communicate with the women by "Googling Spanish" or by asking another detainee to translate, rather than the official language services they're supposed to use.

Wotten had worked as a nurse for over a decade before she said she was demoted following her complaints about COVID-19 medical safety and refusal to work with COVID-19 positive patients without a mask.

Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse, said the rate of the procedure at the Georgia facility was a red flag, said one particular gynecologist was at the center of the operations, and said some of the women didn't understand why they were getting it.

Wooten is quoted as saying the sick call nurse sometimes fabricated seeing detainees in person when they hadn't and that she saw the nurse shred a box of detainee complaints without looking at them.

"I've had several inmates tell me that they've been to see the doctor and they've had hysterectomies and they don't know why they went or why they're going", Wooten said.

'She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary; he took out the right one. "That's his specialty, he's the uterus collector", Wooten said.

"She still wanted children - so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can't bear kids ... she said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary", Wooten recounted.

The facility houses immigrant detainees in the custody of ICE, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. She declined to take questions after making a statement with no reference to mass hysterectomies or did not quantify how numerous procedures were performed on immigrant women at the facility.

Beginning in 1932, what is now known as the infamous Tuskegee Study or Tuskegee Experiment was a "40-year experiment run by Public Health Service officials followed 600 rural black men in Alabama with syphilis over the course of their lives, refusing to tell patients their diagnosis, refusing to treat them for the debilitating disease, and actively denying some of them treatment", The Atlantic summarized. But according to the complaint, "The officer who was transporting her to the hospital told her that she was receiving a hysterectomy to have her womb removed".

Wooten explained that though some women may need a hysterectomy to correct heavy menstruation or other severe issues, "everybody's uterus can not be that bad".

"When the hospital refused to operate on her because her COVID-19 test came back positive for antibodies, she was transferred back to ICDC where the ICDC nurse said that the procedure she was going to have done entailed dilating her vagina and scraping tissue off". "Ms Wooten's whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years".

"So a lot of them are just non-criminals, and a lot of them are victims of persecution and other harm and crimes", Dzubow explained.

In addition to holding detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it also serves those arrested by the U.S. Marshals and the Irwin County Sheriff's Department.

"Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy - just about everybody", Wooten said. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results.

The agency told the Associated Press that "anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate scepticism they deserve".

ICE said on its website that as of September 13, there were 42 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its detainees at Irwin County Detention Center, and 5,772 in all of its facilities, with six overall deaths. ICE reported that 31 detainees at the facility had tested positive since the start of the pandemic, but Wooten and another medical worker who spoke to The Intercept alleged that there were at least 50 positive cases by early July.

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