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Breast cancer patient gets a TSA pat-down, TSA gets a smackdown

October 04, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Another study shows the advantages of adding Herceptin to breast cancer treatment.
Another study shows the advantages of adding Herceptin to breast cancer… (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles…)

AnotherTransportation Security Administration pat-down gone wrong is in the news again. This time the unfortunate pat-downee is Lori Dorn, a New York-based human resources professional who underwent a bilateralmastectomy in April and was traveling throughJohn F.Kennedy International Airport in New York.

You can already see where this one is going.

According to Dorn's Sept. 30 blog post, aTSA agent wanted to pat down her breast area after seeing something on the body scanner--Dorn said it's probably tissue expanders placed in her chest for reconstruction surgery down the road.

Although Dorn said she told theTSA agent she didn't want her breasts touched and offered to show them a card in her wallet describing the expanders, evidently that didn't do the trick. On her blog she writes: "This request was denied. Instead, she called over a female supervisor who told me the exam had to take place. I was again told that I could not retrieve the card and needed to submit to a physical exam in order to be cleared. She then said, 'And if we don't clear you, you don't fly' loud enough for other passengers to hear. And they did. And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by aTSA Supervisor.

"To my further dismay, my belongings, including my computer, were completely out of sight. I had no choice but to allow an agent to touch my breasts in front of other passengers."

She goes on to say that considering she's been through "emotional and physical hell" in the past year due to her cancer, the way she was treated caused her great humiliation.

Dorn has been tweeting about the incident, and Monday theTSA responded to the situation on its TSABlog. "We do our best to treat passengers with the dignity and respect they deserve, but in Lori Dorn's case, it looks like we missed our mark."

The agency goes on to say it sincerely regrets and apologizes for Dorn's experience, added that the Federal Security director for the airport has "personally reached out to learn more about what happened so he can help ensure that she and others will have better travel experiences in the future."

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a Texas-based nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer, said it is closely watching the impact of new airport screening procedures, including scanning machines and pat-downs, on millions of breast cancer survivors. While declining to comment on Dorn's situation, the group did say that those with prosthetic devices may have to go through secondary screenings. "We have heard reports that some survivors have been subject to this secondary screening, many describing it as extensive and embarrassing. We of course expect security employees to treat breast cancer survivors and all persons with medical devices with dignity and respect, and will be closely monitoring."

As we mentioned above, this is is not the first time theTSA has been in hot water for treating passengers with health issues insensitively. In July a 95-year-old Florida woman and cancer patient alleged that she was forced to remove her adult diaper as part of an airport security pat-down. Evidently she didn't have another diaper with her. According to news sources the TSA later issued a statement saying it had reviewed the incident and determined that the officers acted professionally and according to procedure. The agency also denied asking the woman to remove her diaper.

Last November a bladder cancer survivor with a urostomy bag went though a pat-down that resulted in a broken seal and leaked urine. The man said he warned the TSA agent about the bag, but the pat-down continued anyway. So as not to miss his flight he had to board the plane still soaked in urine.

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