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Woman billed $5K for hospital body cavity searches gets $1.1M settlement

Posted Jul 10, 2014 12:12 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Texas hospital and two emergency room physicians have agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a suit by a New Mexico woman who claimed she was subjected against her will to "multiple, redundant and increasingly intrusive" body cavity searches at the facility.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, says doctors at the University Medical Center of El Paso performed the searches at the behest of border patrol agents after a drug-sniffing dog jumped on her as she was returning from Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on her behalf after she sought help with the $5,000 bill she got from the hospital for the procedures. The settlement was announced in an ACLU press release and covered by Texas Lawyer and El Paso Times.

According to the suit, the hospital gave the woman a laxative, observed her bowel movement, then gave her an X-ray, speculum exam, rectal exam, vaginal exam and a CT scan. No drugs were found.

The suit described the plaintiff as “a petite 54-year-old United States citizen.” Still pending are her claims against U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel.

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