Published: Wed, September 16, 2020
Medical | By

ICE whistleblower: Nurse alleges 'hysterectomies on immigrant women in US'

ICE whistleblower: Nurse alleges 'hysterectomies on immigrant women in US'

The facility in Ocilla, about 200 miles south of Atlanta, houses men and women detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service and Irwin County.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the centre to "an experimental concentration camp", adding: "It was like they're experimenting with our bodies".

The nurse said detained women told her they did not fully understand why they had to get a hysterectomy - an operation involving the removal of all or part of the uterus.

Human rights groups and a whistle-blower are condemning the Trump administration for the treatment of migrants at a holding facility in Georgia, where they say there's been incidents of negligence and abuse - like forced hysterectomies for women.

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.

It said that evidence raised "red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women under ICE custody" at the center.

Numerous detained women said they did not understand why they were being forced to have the procedure, according to Wooten.

'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'.

The nurse detailed that a young detained immigrant woman had to receive a full hysterectomy after the doctor removed her healthy right ovary, instead of the left ovary, which had a problematic cyst.

Project South, the Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed the complaint on behalf of detained immigrants and the nurse. That's his specialty, he's the uterus collector.

Project South said the complaint alleges "jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Ms Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19".

"We've questioned among ourselves like goodness he's taking everybody's stuff out..." "I was told not to tell officers that there were detainees they dealt with day in and day out that were positive".

ICE said in its statement "a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee's will".

"She was originally told by the doctor that she had an ovarian cyst and was going to have a small twenty-minute procedure done drilling three small holes in her stomach to drain the cyst". I know that's he collecting these things or something...

"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".

Wooten said the number of detainees infected was much higher than reported because there was no active testing and not all cases were reported, according to the complaint.

In a statement to Law and Crime, I.C.E. said, "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security". ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results.

'That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve, ' the agency said in a statement.

According to Wooten, ICDC consistently used a particular gynecologist - outside the facility - who nearly always opted to remove all or part of the uterus of his female detainee patients.

Wooten said the facility declined to use two rapid-testing COVID-19 machines that ICE purchased for $14,000 each.

One detainee Wooten mentioned in the complaint was given at least three separate and unrelated reasons for why she needed a hysterectomy.

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