In a story that sounds like good old-fashioned government-sponsored eugenics, a California doctor is accused of sterilizing female patients illegally. This is the sort of thing that inspired the Nazis and Josef Mengele and was the predecessor of the Holocaust.
The California State Auditor criticized federal and state oversight of sterilization surgeries for female prison inmates after finding numerous illegal surgeries and violations of the state’s informed consent law.
Of the 144 inmates who underwent tubal ligations from fiscal years 2005-06 to 2012-13, auditors found nearly one-third were performed without lawful consent, according to the report released Thursday.
In 27 cases, the inmate’s physician — the person who would perform the procedure in a hospital or an alternate physician — did not sign the required consent form asserting that the patient appeared mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure and that the required waiting period had been satisfied.
In some cases, physicians falsified the consent forms, indicating the proper waiting period had passed when it clearly had not.
The CIR investigation, published in July, found that 132 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules from 2006 to 2010 — and perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s.
Heinrich previously told CIR that the money spent sterilizing inmates was minimal “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children — as they procreated more.”
Dr. James Heinrich and his staff should be sued for their actions and have their medical licenses revoked and imprisoned. The story gets stranger, and creepier, when looking back at previous findings.
Dr. James Heinrich also has a history of medical controversies and expensive malpractice settlements both inside and outside prison walls. Female patients have accused him not just of trying to dictate their reproductive decisions, but also of unsanitary practices and botched surgeries that injured them and their infants.
Overall, the number of sterilization surgeries sharply increased after Heinrich joined the prison system and the federal court began oversight.
The responses to the increase site that Heinrich saw more patients than other doctors, but given his problems before being hired, why did the prison system decide to hire such a controversial figure?
Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State inmate who worked in the prison infirmary, received a letter in August asking her to participate. “The Medical Board is currently examining Dr. Heinrich’s patient care,” it said.
Nguyen had many names to offer, she said, because Heinrich’s habits, like eating while conducting vaginal exams, were well known not just by inmates, but also by staff, who she said felt powerless to force him to change. Nguyen said she experienced those habits firsthand during her pregnancy at Valley State.
“He would be eating popcorn all the time. Popcorn, cheese and crackers. And he would be examining while he would be eating,” she said. “And to me, that’s not hygienic. … It was gross. It just creeped me out.”
To protect against infections, state and federal safety rules ban health care professionals from having food and drink in areas where patients are treated.
The CIR article gives several examples of how Heinrich simply didn’t care about his patients, whether they be in prison or not, and pushed unnecessary procedures on them. People place a huge amount of trust in doctors to know what is best. If something seems off, get a second opinion.