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A New York breast cancer patient says she was subjected to an "insulting" and "humiliating" pat-down by a TSA agent at Kennedy Airport last week as she prepared to board a flight to San Francisco.
Lori Dorn, a human resources consultant, recounted the experience on her blog, describing how, last Thursday, Sept. 29, she walked through an imaging scanner at Terminal 4 when a TSA agent asked her to step aside to have her breast examined.
"I explained to the agent that I was a breast cancer patient and had a bilateral mastectomy in April and had tissue expanders put in to make way for reconstruction at a later date," Dorn wrote.
Dorn told the agent she was not comfortable having her breasts touched and explained that she had a medical card in her wallet that described such expanders and included her doctor's contact information. She asked the agent if she could retrieve the card.
The TSA agent denied the request, and instead called over a female supervisor.
The supervisor told Dorn the exam had to take place and also denied Dorn's request to retrieve her medical card, according to Dorn.
The supervisor added, "And if we don't clear you, you don't fly," loudly enough for other passengers to hear, said Dorn.
"I had no choice but to allow an agent to touch my breasts in front of other passengers," continued Dorn.
"I understand the need for safety when flying," wrote Dorn, "but there is also a need for those responsible to be compassionate and sensitive to each situation. These agents were neither."
In a statement to NBC New York, TSA said it strives to "treat every passenger with dignity and respect," and admitted Dorn "did not have a positive experience" with her screening.
"The Federal Security Director for JFK personally reached out to the passenger to apologize and learn about her experience to help ensure a smoother checkpoint for passengers in similar circumstances going forward," the TSA said in the statement.
The agency should have allowed Dorn to retrieve her medical card, which in turn should have triggered a "more compassionate response from our officers, such as an offer on our part of private screening," TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy said.
"As a result of this occurrence, we will be looking at refreshing some training to use this as a learning opportunity," the statement continued.