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.
Deborah C. Peel, MD is the world’s leading advocate for patients’ rights to control the use of personal health information in electronic systems. She is also a practicing physician and Freudian psychoanalyst. She became an expert and privacy warrior to stop patients from being harmed. The lack of health privacy causes millions of US citizens to avoid early diagnosis and treatment for cancer, depression, and STDs every year.
Her passion is informing the public about privacy-enhancing technologies and the major fixes needed in law and policy, so they can join the battle to restore our civil and human rights to health privacy.
Before you think this isn’t a big deal, think again. Hospitals have begun creating profiles on current and potential patients by tracking their consumer data to identify when a person may become ill.
Information compiled by data brokers from public records and credit card transactions can reveal where a person shops, the food they buy, and whether they smoke. The largest hospital chain in the Carolinas is plugging data for 2 million people into algorithms designed to identify high-risk patients, while Pennsylvania’s biggest system uses household and demographic data.
Carolinas HealthCare System operates the largest group of medical centers in North Carolina and South Carolina, with more than 900 care centers, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and surgical centers. The health system is placing its data, which include purchases a patient has made using a credit card or store loyalty card, into predictive models that give a risk score to patients.
While all information would be bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, he said he’s aware some people may be uncomfortable with data going to doctors and hospitals. For these people, the system is considering an opt-out mechanism that will keep their data private,
How about just making the system opt-in? Anyone who wants to be spied upon and have others making their lifestyle decisions for them can participate. Those who value their privacy wouldn’t have to do a thing.
“I thought I had protection under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) for my psychotherapy notes to be private and I thought only my psychiatrist could see those,” the 42-year-old said, adding that she noticed over the years her physician started entering them electronically.
What she didn’t realize was that her physician’s notes could be accessed by doctors and other health-care providers who worked in the same health-care system (6,000 doctors and nine affiliated hospitals) to have access — information she learned after going to see an on-call physician for a stomach issue and realizing he knew about intimate relationship information only disclosed to her psychiatrist.
In fact, an ABC News investigation found that often medical information is so unprotected, millions of records can be bought online. Because so many people have access, the entire system is vulnerable to theft, experts told ABC News.
Much more at ABC News.