Who Is Dawn Wooten? Nurse at Georgia ICE Detention Centers Says Women Unnecessarily Received Hysterectomies | Inside Edition

Who Is Dawn Wooten? Nurse at Georgia ICE Detention Centers Says Women Unnecessarily Received Hysterectomies

Demonstrators march through downtown calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on 2 September 2020
Demonstrators march through downtown calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on 2 September 2020.Getty Images

A whistle-blower complaint was filed on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a licensed nurse practitioner, and other detainees to the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security.

A nurse who worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Georgia is claiming that a gynecologist at the facility performed unnecessary procedures on immigrant women, including hysterectomies. 

A whistle-blower complaint was filed on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a licensed nurse practitioner, and other detainees to the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security about the Irwin Detention Center. Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed the complaint.

Wooten said in the complaint that she and other nurses noticed that several detainees had received hysterectomies and were worried that the women, some of which did not speak English, were not aware of the treatments being performed on them. 

“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them,” Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee who was included in the complaint said she was confused by her medical treatment, but did not let authorities know for fear of retaliation. She said she was told by doctors at Irwin County Hospital that she needed a procedure but had three different explanations of what that would entail, including having her entire womb removed. She then tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, however, and the hospital would no longer operate, according to the complaint. 

She said her experience left her “feeling scared and frustrated,” according to the complaint.

The hospital did not respond to Inside Edition Digital’s request for comment. 

Benjamin Osorio, a lawyer representing women who were held in the facility, told NBC News that two of his clients received hysterectomies that they believe may have been unnecessary.

Osorio said one of the women said she was told by a doctor, who has since been identified as Dr. Mahendra Amin, that she had ovarian cysts and needed a hysterectomy because they were cancerous. Osorio claims, however, that there was never a biopsy done to determine that. Another client said she was told she had stage 4 cancer and went through with a hysterectomy, but an oncologist later told her that she did not have cancer, according to Osorio.

Wooten called Dr. Amin a “uterus collector” in the complaint. Scott R. Grubman, a lawyer for Amin, said the allegations made in the complaint are false. 

“Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia,” Mr. Grubman said in a statement to The New York Times.

The Department of Homeland Security has said they are investigating the allegations made.

Dr. Ada Rivera, the medical director of the ICE Health Services Corps, also said the reports are being investigated and added that the agency “vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures, according to a statement. 

Rivera also said only two women detained at the facility had been referred for hysterectomies since 2018.

“To be clear, medical care decisions concerning detainees are made by medical personnel, not by law enforcement personnel. Detainees are afforded informed consent, and a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed against a detainee’s will,” he wrote.

Wooten, who was demoted in July to an “as-needed” after missing work because she said she had coronavirus symptoms, also said she believes she was demoted in retaliation for raising concerns about coronavirus protocol within the detention center, according to the complaint. She claimed the center was not actively testing detainees and not “reporting all positive cases”

“You don’t want to see what you’re seeing,” Wooten told The Intercept. “You’re responsible for the lives of others.”

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