Physician complicity in human rights violations: Involuntary sterilization among women from Mexico and Central America seeking asylum in the United States

Deborah Ottenheimer, Zoha Huda, Elizabeth T. Yim, Holly G. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Involuntary sterilization is a violation of human rights and grounds for asylum in the United States. Forensic medical evaluations can be useful in documenting this form of persecution and supporting asylees’ claims for immigration relief. We conducted a retrospective case analysis of the personal and medical affidavits of 14 asylum-seeking women from four Latin America countries who all reported they had been involuntarily sterilized. Sixty-four percent said that “consent” was coerced; the remainder were unaware of having been sterilized at the time of the procedure. In all cases, findings on hysterosalpingogram were consistent with sterilization, revealing that all 14 had undergone a tubal ligation. Eighty-six percent of the women had been sterilized at the time of childbirth. The healthcare providers involved in the 14 cases failed to obtain informed consent, misled patients about sterilization, engaged in discriminatory behavior, and/or breached patient confidentiality regarding their HIV-status. All 14 asylum cases were defensive; of the 7 cases (50%) that have been decided to date, 100% have been granted asylum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102358
JournalJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Volume89
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asylum
  • Forensic medical evaluation
  • Garifuna
  • Human rights
  • Involuntary sterilization
  • Sexual/reproductive rights

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