Woman, hospital settle body cavity search lawsuit

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Associated Press

Posted on May 8, 2014 at 10:03 AM

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A West Texas hospital is settling a lawsuit with a woman who says she was subjected to invasive cavity searches by medical staff at the behest of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Court records show the border protection agency is not part of the settlement. The woman's lawsuit continues against two border agents with last names Portillo and Herrera as well as two supervisors there.

The lawsuit says the 54-year-old Lovington, New Mexico, resident was randomly selected for an inspection in December 2012 at the Cordova border bridge in El Paso. After being searched by the agents, no evidence was found that she was carrying illicit drugs. She was taken to University Medical Center where, according to the lawsuit, doctors Michael Parsa and Christopher Cabanillas probed her against her will even after X-rays showed no foreign objects inside her. She was also given a CT exam, which did not yield any evidence of smuggling.

She was told to sign a consent form so that the border agency would pay for the procedures. After she refused, she received a $5,000 bill for the procedures.

In a statement, University Medical Hospital said the settlement is not intended to make the case "go away", but to bring closure to the woman. It also stated they will make sure local law enforcement agencies understand that the hospital's only concern is patient care.

The lawsuit states a medical center employee told the woman that procedures such as the ones performed on her were routinely performed on people brought by border agents.

She was not identified in court papers and terms of the settlement were not released.

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