Eshoo, Pallone, DeGette Demand Answers Following Alarming Reports of Improper Medical Care at DHS Facility

October 1, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf today following alarming allegations of widespread disregard for public health and lack of quality medical care for individuals detained at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), a DHS facility located in Ocilla, Georgia. 

According to a complaint filed with DHS’s independent Office of Inspector General (OIG), the detention center routinely violated COVID-19 public health guidance, failed to provide general medical care to those detained, and facilitated a high rate of hysterectomies on women under questionable circumstances and without fully informed consent.

“If this complaint is true, it is absolutely unacceptable and horrific treatment of individuals in DHS detention,” the Committee leaders wrote. “Furthermore, the complaint details conditions that threaten the public’s health in the midst of a pandemic. In light of these allegations, as the Committee of jurisdiction over public health and health care in the United States, we seek information as to what steps DHS has taken to investigate the conditions at ICDC and elsewhere, and what actions are being implemented to address and prevent such circumstances in other detention facilities.”

According to the OIG complaint, high rates of hysterectomies were performed on women detained at ICDC and some women expressed that they did not understand why the procedure had been performed. Reportedly, one woman was given three different answers by three different people as to why she needed to undergo a hysterectomy. In the days since the complaint was made public, more women have come forward to share their experiences of being pressured to undergo the procedure while detained at the facility.

“Informed consent for all medical care, including reproductive health, is imperative to ensuring quality health care, public health, and patient trust. Particularly given our nation’s troubling history of inflicting nonconsensual or coercive medical practices on people of color and people with disabilities—and practices that resulted in sterilization—informed consent is foundational to sound medical care practices,” Pallone, Eshoo and DeGette continued. “Especially in settings where patients are detained or incarcerated, the power dynamics presented only reinforce the critical need for unambiguous and fully informed consent.”

As part of their inquiry, the Democratic Committee leaders requested a briefing and answers to a series of questions by October 15, 2020.

To read the full letter, click HERE

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