The allegations about Amin and the privately operated detention center reverberated nationally, in part because of one particularly explosive claim by the whistleblower, a nurse who formerly worked at the facility. She said multiple women had undergone hysterectomies without their consent, so many that detainees referred to the doctor – later identified as Amin – as the “uterus collector.”
Federal officials say Amin performed hysterectomies on just two detainees. In a radio interview last week, Ken Cuccinelli, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the allegation is “clearly false and should never have been made in the first place. … We take the health and welfare of even people we’re deporting very seriously.”
However, Cuccinelli did not address other procedures, such as surgeries to remove ovaries and fallopian tubes. Like hysterectomies, those operations can leave women unable to bear children. Lawyers for at least 17 detainees have told members of Congress their clients had such surgeries while at Irwin County.
The Congress members who interviewed more than 20 detainees Saturday said a pattern emerged in the women’s stories: they were told they had ovarian cysts that might be cancerous and then, without an explanation of other options for treatment, they became “the subject of forced, unnecessary procedures,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state. Jayapal said she reviewed medical records that supported the women’s claims.
“What has happened here is horrific,” Jayapal said. “We want to ensure that no others are put in that position again.”
Rep. Raul Ruiz of California, a physician, cast doubt on the medical necessity of many surgeries.
“It is impossible that everyone there has an ovarian cyst and needs a procedure,” Ruiz said. Regardless, he said, Amin needed to make sure the detainees understood the risks they faced.
“If you take a blade to a woman’s body, you need to have informed consent,” Ruiz said. “Otherwise, it is an assault.”