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Breast cancer survivor slams 'humiliating' pat-down at U.S. airport

A TSA agent dons rubber gloves at a security checkpoint at Washington Reagan National Airport in Washington, November 22, 2010.


With the trial of the alleged Underwear Bomber beginning, people are remembering that explosives can be tucked in the most private of places.

That said, it's pretty unlikely there would be a bomb in a breast implant. But that didn't stop U.S. Transportation Security Administration officers at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport from patting down a breast cancer survivor in full view of other passengers.

Lori Dorn was diagnosed with breast cancer in March. Only a month later, she had a bilateral mastectomy. As part of her preparation toward having permanent implants, Ms. Dorn's doctors inserted tissue expanders into her breast skin to help create a spot for the implant.

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Beyond creating a pocket in her tissue, the expanders also show up on a full-body scan at the airport.

In a blog post, Ms. Dorn says she tried to explain her situation to the female officer and offered to get her medical card to prove her story, but was never given a chance.

"[The officer]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," Ms. Dorn wrote. "I had no choice but to allow an agent to touch my breasts in front of other passengers."

Beyond being physically painful – Ms. Dorn elaborates that her chest is still sore from her surgery – the cancer survivor felt humiliated and left her wondering: "At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion?"

The New York Times' Well blog has since posted an apology from the TSA. But with lines like, "While an initial review indicates that proper screening procedures were followed, we regret that this passenger did not have a positive experience," it's less of an apology and more of a "we're sorry this has gotten so much media attention."

Now that revealing body scans and public pat-downs that could qualify as getting to second base have become the norm, has airport security gone too far?

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Madeleine White is an online editor and reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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