A recent bipartisan Senate investigation revealed that one doctor performed a staggering number of "unnecessary" gynecological procedures on women held at an ICE detention center in Georgia—often without first obtaining the women's medical consent.
"This is an extraordinarily disturbing finding" that "represents a catastrophic failure by the Federal government to respect basic human rights," committee chair Jon Ossoff (D-Ga) said in his opening statement. "Among the serious abuses this Subcommittee has investigated during the last two years, subjecting female detainees to nonconsensual and unnecessary gynecological surgeries is one of the most nightmarish and disgraceful."
On Tuesday, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released the findings of an 18-month investigation into the actions of one Department of Homeland Security-contracted doctor, Mahendra Amin. While the investigation did not find evidence of "mass, unauthorized hysterectomies," which was the original allegation, they did find evidence of a large number of "excessive, invasive, and often unnecessary gynecological surgeries and procedures, with repeated failures to obtain informed medical consent," according to Ossoffs' statement.
Women held in the Georgia immigration detention center where Amin was employed described callous treatment, "aggressive and unethical gynecological care, quickly scheduled surgeries when non-surgical options were available," and "unnecessary injections and treatments," according to Ossoff's statement.
According to the investigation, even though Amin was the provider of just 6.5 percent of all off-site OB/GYN visits for ICE detainees nationwide, he performed a staggering 82 percent of dilation and curettage procedures and 93 percent of contraceptive injections.
Witnesses described receiving invasive medical treatment without their consent. One woman, Karina Cisneros, described being taken to a postpartum exam in chains. While Cisneros expected to receive a pap smear, Amin instead performed a vaginal ultrasound. Cisneros wrote in a statement to the Senate committee that Amin told her "that I have a cyst on my left ovary and that I'm going to get a Depo shot for it and if the cyst does not dissolve in four weeks, I'm going to have to come back for surgery."
A Depo-Provera shot is a kind of contraceptive injection that lasts three months. However, Cisneros was not told that she would be given a birth control shot and was not given time to object. "I didn't know what it was. It wasn't explained to me," Cisneros told the Senate subcommittee. "And if I would have known, I would have said something, as the women in my family had very bad experiences from birth control."
"Many of the women who were treated by Dr. Amin while at ICDC do not know what happened to their bodies or why," wrote Dr. Margaret Muller, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Northwestern Fienberg School of Medicine, in a statement to the committee. "Many are not aware, for example, of what medications they were given or why, what surgical procedures were performed on them, or whether they are still able to have children."
The disturbing revelations of the investigation reveal a troubling tolerance for the neglect of women held in ICE detention. According to Ossoff, Amin was able to perform medical procedures on large numbers of detained women, despite both not being board certified and having been previously sued by the Department of Justice and the State of Georgia for performing unnecessary procedures.
"I was only saved from the surgery because news about Dr. Amin's abuse came out," Cisneros wrote to the committee. "Why was he allowed to harm me and so many other women?"