Immigration Law

Lawyers, nurse raise concerns about hysterectomies performed at ICE detention center

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Immigrants at a privately operated detention center in Georgia and a whistleblower nurse have provided accounts of “jarring medical neglect” and questionable hysterectomies performed on detainees, according to a complaint filed Monday with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The nurse, Dawn Wooten, expressed concern about the number of women receiving hysterectomies by an outside doctor, report NBC News,, the Intercept and

“Everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad,” she said in a declaration cited by the complaint.

Wooten said detainees described the doctor as the “uterus collector,” according to the complaint. She told NBC News that she would cry at the end of her shift because of concerns about the women.

The complaint also alleged that the facility failed to take coronavirus precautions, did not perform adequate COVID-19 testing, fabricated medical records, shredded detainee medical requests, did not provide adequate medication, and forced detainees to live in unsanitary conditions.

Wooten said she was demoted after complaining about coronavirus procedures and missing work because of COVID-19 symptoms.

The immigrants are housed at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, which is privately run by LaSalle Corrections for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service and Irwin County.

Project South, one of the groups representing the immigrants, said it spoke with several women who were concerned about the gynecologist.

One immigrant said she had spoken with five women detained between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done. The women who had the surgeries appeared confused when trying to explain why they had the surgery, the immigrant told Project South.

NBC News spoke about the doctor with several lawyers who represented women at the detention center.

Lawyer Benjamin Osorio said he spoke with two women who said they had hysterectomies after being told that they had cancer. One of the women said she was advised to have surgery because of cancerous ovarian cysts, but records indicated that she was never given a biopsy to confirm the cancer.

Another woman said she was told that she needed a hysterectomy and chemotherapy because of stage 4 cervical cancer. But an oncologist she spoke with after the surgery said she did not have cancer.

Lawyer Sarah Owings told NBC News that she heard from many women who were told that they had ovarian cysts that needed to be removed or drained.

The doctor was previously investigated for alleged false claims to Medicaid and Medicare, NBC News reported. He and other accused doctors agreed to pay $520,000 to settle the allegations.

One lawyer who has worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Elizabeth Mathren, told NBC News that she previously raised concerns about the gynecologist, and nothing was done.

Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, told that since 2018, only two people at the facility were referred to gynecologists for hysterectomies. ICE also released a statement saying it takes all allegations seriously, but “anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics” should be treated with skepticism.

Other groups filing the complaint were the Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network.

A total of 173 members of Congress wrote a Sept. 15 letter urging the DHS inspector general to investigate the complaint.

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