You can rest easy next time you fly, because TSA screeners are ensuring our safety by thoroughly inspecting the chests of breast cancer survivors, and dismissing their pleas for basic human sensitivity.
The Associated Press reports that last week, Lori Dorn was flying from New York to San Francisco when she set off a full-body scanner. After being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, Dorn underwent a bilateral masectomy and chemotherapy. The scanner detected tissue expanders that were implanted as part of her breast reconstruction. Though Dorn has a medical device ID card, a TSA agent and her supervisor refused to allow her to get the card from her bag, and told her she's have to undergo a pat-down. Dorn writes on her blog:
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 a TSA Supervisor.
Dorn says she didn't object to undergoing a pat down, but didn't want to have a TSA agent touch her breasts in full view of other passengers without allowing her to explain her medical condition. She adds:
I just didn't understand why these agents were so insensitive to the situation. I would have been happy to show her which bag was mine and have her retrieve the card, but she did not allow even that. I have been through emotional and physical hell this past year due to breast cancer. The way I was treated by these TSA agents added a shitload of insult to injury and caused me a great deal of humiliation.
Now after reviewing the situation, the TSA has issued a public apology. The agency stated on its blog:
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. We sincerely regret and apologize for the experience Mrs. Dorn had at JFK. The Federal Security Director for JFK 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.
It goes on to explain that she should have been allowed to retrieve her medical card. This wouldn't make her exempt from a pat down, but agents were supposed to offer to take her to a private screening room. The post also says:
TSA has just rolled out an in-service technical training course focused on screening prosthetics. This curriculum focuses on all types of prosthetics and the requirements of the standard operating procedures related to the screening of Persons with Disabilities and Medical Conditions
Dorn has accepted the TSA's apology, and it's good to hear that the agency is acknowledging that agents behaved inappropriately and trying to do something about it. However, it's staggering that incidents like this are still happening on a regular basis. There are bound to be a few disgruntled asshats in any organization, and working for airport security is definitely stressful. However, it's not like we've only seen a handful of these incidents. Why didn't the agency start emphasizing treating flyers with dignity and respect after the first several dozen complaints? Not that TSA employees should need specific instructions on dialing down the dickishness when dealing with a woman who's recovering from breast cancer.
TSA Sorry About Breast Cancer Survivor Patdown [AP]
At What Point Does The Need For Security Eclipse Human Dignity And Compassion? [Lori Dorn]
Cancer Patient Screening At JFK: Treating Passengers with Dignity and Respect [The TSA Blog]
TSA Update [Lori Dorn]