The TSA subjected a woman dying of leukemia to a public security pat-down at Sea-Tac airport, refusing her request to a private search when she requested one, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
Thirty-four-year-old Michelle Dunaj, who was traveling from Michigan to Hawaii for one of the last trips she would ever take, had a large amount of prescription drugs in her luggage, and had called Alaska Airlines in advance to request a wheelchair and ask how to separate her medication at the security checkpoint.
“I did everything they asked me to do, so I didn’t think it would be an issue,” Dunaj said. But at the checkpoint, a TSA agent forced open one of her saline bags after it couldn’t be identified by a machine, and contaminated the fluid. Agents also made her lift up her shirt and remove bandages that held feeding tubes — which Dunaj needs because of organ failure — in place.
The agency said in a statement, “At no point did a TSA officer open the passenger’s medically necessary liquids and the passenger was never asked to remove or pull off any bandages.”
Dunaj said she asked to be searched in private and agents refused.
“They just said that it was fine; the location we were at was fine,” Dunaj said.
TSA spokesperson Ann Davis said it is against policy for agents to refuse passengers privacy if they request it and have a witness present, and that TSA officers “are trained to perform pat downs in a dignified manner.”
This isn’t the first time the TSA has come under fire for its treatment of a sick passenger. In March, a Denver teen had her insulin pump broken by a full-body scanner, even after she requested a pat-down. Other sick or dying passengers have been subjected to similar treatments, but it seems some TSA agents have yet to learn a lesson in sensitivity.
“When somebody wants to take a trip, especially what I call an ‘end-of-life trip’ because you want to see your family and friends, then it becomes more important than just taking a trip,” Michelle Dunaj said.