The American Civil Liberties Union sent letters to healthcare systems last week that operate 110 hospitals in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas advising them of their rights when confronted by federal agents requesting they perform body-cavity searches.
Healthcare personnel are never required if ordered by law enforcement to perform a body cavity search, per the guidance.
The letters referenced a case involving a New Mexico woman who in 2012 was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and subjected to a body cavity search at University Medical Center of El Paso (Texas). Customs agents believed she was carrying drugs. None were found.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed she was billed more than $5,400 by the medical center for costs related to the search.
The woman, with help from the ACLU, received a $1 million settlement in a lawsuit against the hospital.
Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas during their investigation into the case, said it became apparent that some healthcare providers don't know their rights.