Could a Grandmother’s TSA ‘Humiliation’ Have Been Avoided?

Jul 19, 2012 7:33pm

A Fort Worth, Texas, woman who was on her way to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said she was “humiliated” by the TSA agents at Dallas-Love Field airport. But could it have been avoided?

Melinda Deaton told WFAA, a local television station, that she was subject to pat-down after agents noticed something hanging from her stomach. She informed the agent it was her gastric tube, used to help flush toxins from her body.

TSA spokesman David Castelveter told ABC News  Deaton was pulled aside for the pat down because she set off the alarm on the imaging technology at the security checkpoint. She had not disclosed to the agents that she had a medical device and required special procedures, so she went through security like any other passenger.

When an alarm sounds, there must be resolution to the incident. TSA said Deaton was offered and accepted a private screening with two female agents.

“When I pulled my shirt out and they catch a glimpse of it [her gastric tube], they both go, ‘Ugh!’” Deaton told the station. “I said, ‘Thank you for your professionalism.’”

Deaton pulled up her shirt despite being informed it wasn’t necessary, said the TSA. The agency has policies against passengers undressing, as well as a policy against touching any medical device.

In addition, Deaton’s medical condition requires her to eat only soft foods. She claimed that when agents checked her luggage, they threw out her containers filled with apple sauce and pudding.  She told them it was her food and asked for a supervisor.

According to Deaton, the supervisor grabbed the food from the trash, screened it out of her sight and gave it back. The TSA said that closed-circuit television showed the food being checked and then returned without incident.

TSA said an investigation into the incident has taken place and that agents followed “standard operating procedures.” The TSA website reads: “Although every person and item must be screened before entering each secure boarding area, it is the manner in which the screening is conducted that is most important.”

There’s a special branch of TSA that works directly with travelers with special needs.

“We will work with her to find more efficient ways to travel so she will not have to face this again,” Castelveter said.

Passengers with medical devices or any other medical circumstances can find more information about airport security accommodations on the TSA web site.

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