Bioethics Blogs

Borderline Disorder: Medical Personnel and Law Enforcement

Some recent news raises serious concerns about the relationship between medical professionals and law enforcement. Not being investigative journalists, we cannot speak to the accuracy of media reports or documents submitted to the court. However, if the truth even roughly resembles the claims, the situation is extremely troubling.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 54-year old New Mexico resident, “Jane Doe.” The defendants are the board of managers of El Paso County Hospital District, the University Medical Center of El Paso, two physicians, and agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The lawsuit alleges that on December 8, 2012 Ms. Doe was returning from a visit in Mexico when an agent of CBP informed her that she had been chosen for increased inspection and secondary screening.

After frisking failed to produce any contraband, agents sent her back in line to finish customs procedures. According to the complaint, a drug-sniffing dog, possibly prompted by a CBP agent, lurched at Ms. Doe. Agents then led her to a private room where she was subjected to further searches, including visual examination of her anus and vagina with a flashlight and the insertion of an agent’s finger into her vagina. Throughout the search, Ms. Doe never expressed consent, nor did the agents present a warrant.

Ms. Doe was then transported to University Medical Center of El Paso. There, she was handcuffed to an examination table, and instructed to ingest a laxative. The resulting bowel movement was observed by CBP agents and two physicians.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.