Eugenics in California Prisons

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Pic: American eugenics poster (CC)

Corey G. Johnson writes at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

State lawmakers called today for an investigation of the physicians involved in the sterilization of women inmates and raised questions about a federal prison overseer’s role in handling the matter.

In a letter to the Medical Board of California, state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, said that The Center for Investigative Reporting’s investigation raised “troubling allegations that doctors violated State law, disregarded ethical guidelines, and fell well below the Standard of care.” Lieu is chairman of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which oversees the medical board.

“We’ve been assured that this practice hasn’t occurred since (2010), but the question of course is why was this occurring?” state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who also signed Lieu’s letter, told CIR. “We want to make absolutely sure – whether we have to do legislation or what – this procedure never becomes the practice it had in the past.”

CIR found that 148 women received tubal ligations without required state approvals from 2006 to 2010. Former inmates say doctors pressured women into getting sterilized and targeted those deemed likely to commit future crimes.

If Lieu’s request is accepted, the doctors reviewed could include those inside the prison who made referrals for the surgeries as well as outside contractors at nearby hospitals who performed the procedure in violation of state rules.

Lieu also called for the medical board to recommend ways for the Legislature to ensure unauthorized surgeries don’t occur in the future and to consider whether doctors involved in unauthorized tubal ligations should be disciplined. The federal prison receivership has said it put a stop to all tubal ligations in 2010.

“A physician’s sole and only concern should be that of the patient,” Lieu wrote. “Whether a surgical procedure would have any hypothetical effect on welfare rolls should never, ever play a part in a doctor’s decision.”

Read more here.