California Sterilized Inmates Without Lawful Consent

Audit finds evidence of many illegal procedures
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2014 12:50 PM CDT
California Sterilized Inmates Without Lawful Consent
In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2012, Dr. Davis Mathis, visits with an inmate in the hospital unit at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The California prison system illegally had dozens of women sterilized, possibly without their consent, according to a new report from the state auditor. Of the 144 inmates given tubal ligations from fiscal years 2005-06 to 2012-13, at least 39 were done without lawful consent, with physicians either failing to sign forms confirming that patients understood and consented to the procedures, failing to wait the requisite number of days to perform the procedure, or both, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. The "true number" might be even higher, the report adds, because auditors found seven cases in which health records had been lost entirely.

The procedures were performed at hospitals, not at the prisons, and the federal receiver’s office, which oversees medical care in the state’s prisons, says it had no legal duty to ensure consent procedures were followed. "That is a ludicrous argument," one state senator says, according to the Desert Sun. "It made me sick to my stomach." The audit recommends that the doctors involved be reported to the state licensing board, the LA Times reports; officials say they'll follow all recommendations. Pending legislation would prohibit prison sterilizations altogether unless they are medically necessary. The audit came in response to an earlier investigation from the CIR that found that the procedures were all carried out without getting the necessary clearance from a state panel of medical experts. For more on that story, click here. (More California stories.)

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