This story was originally published at Prism.
Last fall, the FBI opened an investigation into Dr. Mahendra Amin, the Georgia OB-GYN accused of performing unnecessary gynecological procedures on detained women, and has now expanded its probe to include the doctor’s alleged mistreatment of nondetained former patients, Prism has learned exclusively.
According to attorneys representing immigrant women formerly detained at Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) began questioning immigrants late last year who were operated on by Amin. The interviews were paused earlier this year for unknown reasons, but the investigation now appears to be progressing. The FBI is now also actively reaching out to former patients like Shannon Tatum, one of three Georgia women who spoke to Prism last year alleging medical abuse at the hands of Amin—with some allegations going back decades.
Amin is not a board-certified OB-GYN and in 2015, he and other doctors paid more than $520,000 to resolve allegations that they submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Amin has also settled serious malpractice lawsuits. In one case, a young woman in his care died. In another, a baby died. Still, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) referred detained women to Amin for reproductive health care, along with private prison company LaSalle Corrections, which contracts with ICE to run ICDC. Amin saw more than 60 detained women, many of whom allege he examined them roughly and knowingly misdiagnosed them with ovarian cysts or heavy menstrual bleeding for the purpose of repeated follow-up visits to perform unnecessary procedures. Some of these women were left unable to have children after Amin gave them hysterectomies or removed their ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Like immigrant women detained at ICDC, Georgia residents who were patients of Amin’s say they were also unnecessarily operated on, treated roughly, and experienced medical abuse. Tatum went to Amin in 2014 because she needed a hysterectomy. The Georgia resident experienced serious complications after her surgery. She was unable to walk for weeks and needed a blood transfusion. When Amin did not take these symptoms seriously, she went to another doctor complaining of persistent pelvic pain and urinary frequency, including leaking. The doctor found a mass in her abdomen, likely the result of her previous surgery, and Tatum underwent another operation to remove it. Tatum spoke to the FBI Wednesday, though her case falls outside the statute of limitations.
The FBI confirmed its investigation, but would not comment further.
As of September, ICE no longer refers detained women to Amin for care, and dozens of women have joined a class-action lawsuit against ICE and the OB-GYN. As of two weeks ago, attorney Azadeh Shahshahani said that women are no longer detained at ICDC and that only about 100 men remain in ICE custody at the facility, which has 1,200 beds. The attorney is the legal and advocacy director at Project South, the organization that filed a complaint about ICDC and first brought the allegations regarding hysterectomies to light.
“This has obviously happened as a result of the complaint that laid bare the extent of the human rights violations happening at this prison,” Shahshahani said. “We are definitely glad that women are no longer detained there, but it’s gravely disappointing to us that they still detain men there because we were hoping it would be one of the first actions of the Biden administration to shut down this facility that has gained international notoriety for the way it treats migrants.”
As Prism previously reported, women who were detained at ICDC have been transferred to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, known for abuse, medical neglect, and in-custody deaths. The first immigrant to die in custody under the Biden administration died at Stewart; six people have died at the detention center since 2018. Shahshahani said she does not believe the facility can provide women with appropriate reproductive or prenatal health care, and said she is unsure what will result from the concurrent investigations into Amin.
In September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched an investigation into ICDC and around one month later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did the same. Attorneys and advocates working with women detained at the facility say they are unsure where the DOJ’s investigation stands, but during a congressional hearing last month DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said the agency is already wrapping up its investigation—a comment that troubled Shahshahani.
“We are concerned about the depth and breadth of the investigation,” Shahshahani said. “We are concerned that they didn’t seem to interview all impacted people—the witnesses and the survivors [at ICDC], including women who have been deported all over the world. We need answers about the thoroughness of the investigation.”
DHS OIG did not comment in time for publication. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for ICE would only say that the agency has been “cooperating with the DHS OIG investigation since it first began” and that ICE has “coordinated access to detainees for interviews by investigators and notified investigators of any planned transfers or removals of former patients of the doctor to ensure that those actions would not compromise any part of the investigation.” The spokesperson also noted that Amin “is a private, outside physician, not an employee of the U.S. government.”
In December, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) assisted 10 women who were detained at ICDC with filing medical grievances with the Georgia Medical Composite Board seeking the revocation of Amin’s medical license for his alleged pattern of abuse. Diego Sánchez, SPLC’s direct services attorney, said that the board never even acknowledged receiving the women’s grievances. In the five months since, a number of the women have been deported.
Amin is a powerful figure in Irwin County, where he served as the medical director for the labor and delivery department at Irwin County Hospital and is the owner of MGA Health Management, Inc., which since 1996 has managed the Irwin County Hospital where the medical abuse is alleged to have occured. According to court documents from a lawsuit, Amin is also part owner of Irwin County Hospital. Before the allegations against him emerged, he was in the process of opening the “Amin Surgery for Women.”
Amin continues to see patients in Irwin County.
Tina Vásquez is the senior reporter at Prism. She covers gender justice, workers’ rights, and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.
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