A breast cancer survivor creates an ID card to help others using prostheses pass through security. It doesn’t exempt survivors from searches, but helps them move through security more discreetly.
A breast cancer survivor this month launched a new breast cancer survivor ID card that she hopes will help survivors using prostheses to travel through airport security with more discretion. The card, developed at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC), provides a discrete way for people to inform Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents about their prostheses.
Breast cancer survivor Electra Paskett , associate director for Population Sciences at OSUCCC, came up with the idea after enduring “several inconsistent and insensitive airport security checks.” After TSA began using body scanners, Paskett said she was pulled aside for pat-downs--not every time, but enough that she felt like her privacy and dignity were violated.
“Frankly, it made me angry. As breast cancer survivors, we have fought our own battles, we get a tremendous outpouring of support, and we want to cooperate with security guidelines. We are simply asking to be treated with some compassion,” Paskett said in a statement .
Paskett consulted with TSA when designing the card, but TSA didn’t work directly with the university on its development.
The laminated, drivers’ license-sized card displays information including a patient's name and address, the name of the provider of the prosthetic, and when the device was purchased. The cards are carried at Hope’s Boutique in the JamesCare Comprehensive Breast Center, a specialty store for cancer survivors located in Columbus, Ohio, but they are available internationally. Paskett said they’ve had orders from as far as Miami and Canada. Hope’s Boutique provides the cards for free.
“TSA works with numerous groups, including breast cancer organizations, to continuously refine and enhance our procedures to improve the passenger experience while also ensuring the safety of the traveling public,” a TSA official said.
In TSA’s existing program for screening people traveling with medical equipment, travelers aren’t required to remove prosthetic devices, casts, or support braces, but officers do have to see and touch the device.
“TSA understands that passengers who are breast cancer survivors may have concerns about the screening process. When a breast cancer survivor, including survivors who have prostheses, approaches an airport checkpoint, that individual has the option of undergoing screening by use of advanced imaging technology or a pat-down,” said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.
If the individual chooses to undergo a pat-down and imaging technology shows an anomaly, or if the person sets off a metal detector, additional screening is required. The passenger can request that the pat-down to resolve the issue be done in private.
Lori Dorn, a breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy made the news earlier this month after blogging about her experience at a TSA checkpoint. Dorn said she was carrying a similar card and it was rejected by TSA agents who then subjected to her to a pat-down in plain sight of other passengers. Dorn said she was never offered a private pat-down.
TSA responded, “While an initial review indicates that proper screening procedures were followed, we regret that this passenger did not have a positive experience. Allowing the passenger to display her medical card should have triggered a more compassionate response from the transportation security officer, such as an offer on our part of private screening.”
Farbstein said the card provides a non-verbal way to inform TSA officers about a person’s medical circumstance. It doesn’t exclude them from security procedures, but “it offers a quick way of explaining the situation in a discreet manner,” she said.
In 2008, TSA also began deploying to airports nationwide a scanning machine that can detect concealed threats in prostheses. When being scanned with CastScope it’s not necessary to raise or remove any clothing. CastScopes are in 11 airports so far.
Paskett has had no problems using the card when she travels and says that it has been well received by TSA officers she’s encountered. She was actually in transit when Security Management spoke to her on Thursday.
“I think perhaps it’s because there have been some complaints and some pretty controversial things in the media about women’s experiences. I also think some sensitivity training is happening with the TSA agents. They’ve really made it a lot more friendly. But our goal was to help the women so they wouldn’t have to publicly say [that they had a prosthesis]…. And to help the TSA agent so they would know to employ a little more sensitivity when speaking to the woman,” Paskett said.
photo by aubellaloca/flickr