Of the Fourth Amendment and Rectal Exams

Posted: September 18, 2013 in Courts, Law, Policing
Tags: , , ,

Think you’re having a bad week? Well, cheer up. Whatever’s bugging you is probably not nearly as bad as what happened the night in 2010 when Felix Booker was pulled over by police while riding in a car with expired plates and ended up being temporarily paralyzed by an ER doc so he could perform a non-consensual rectal exam.

Yeah, that really happened.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A PDF of the full ruling on the case by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is available for your reading enjoyment (and it is pretty entertaining disturbing), but here’s the case in a nutshell: The police pulled over the car, developed information that poor Felix had stashed narcotics in his rectum, and eventually transported him to the hospital for treatment by an emergency room doctor.

Here’s the doctor’s testimony about what happened next:

A: I told him that I needed to do a rectal exam. I asked him if I could do so. Initially he said, no. I explained to him that at this point in the Emergency Room he really did not have a choice because if my suspicion was high enough to think that he had some sort of dangerous substance in his rectum, then it was my duty to get it out. And that we could do it a number of different ways. I told him that I would prefer if he cooperated and allow me to do the rectal exam, but if he did not cooperate, then I was going to be forced to administer medications to relax him so that I can do the rectal exam. I further explained that if that did not work, then I would have to go to the extreme and actually paralyze him in order to do the rectal exam. I told him that I did not want to go that far. I would rather that he cooperate and we just do the rectal exam and get it over with. At that point he agreed to do the rectal exam.
. . . .
Q. What happened during this exam?
A. The patient got into the proper position. I prepared to do the rectal exam. He would not allow me to do so. He contracted his anal and rectal muscles so that I could not get my finger inside of his rectum.
Q. This was absent any sort of sedation?
A. Correct.
Q. Then what happened?
A. As I initially told him, if he did not cooperate, I was going to have to give him medication to sedate him in order to do the exam. After the initial attempt to do the exam which failed, I then ordered the nurse to administer ten milligrams of a drug called Midazolam which usually sedates an adult enough to relax all of their musculature so I can do the exam.
Q. Did you in fact sedate the defendant?
A. I did.
Q. What happened after he was sedated?
A. I waited approximately ten to 15 minutes for the medicine to take full effect. I reattempted the rectal exam.
Q. What happened on your reattempt?
A. I was more successful in getting into his rectum at that point because he was sedated and with the tip of my finger I could feel a foreign object in his rectum. He was still conscious enough to contract his muscles enough so that I could not do a complete rectal exam and remove the object.
Q. So what step did you take next?
A. At that point I was convinced beyond any doubt that there was something in his rectum and that I had to do whatever was necessary to get it out. I went to the next step which I had explained previously to the patient and that was to do paralysis. I administered a combination of medications which paralyze every muscle in the body and I also had to stick a tube down his lungs in order to take over his breathing, basically to control his physiology and keep him alive while he was paralyzed.

Wow, this doc does not mess around when it comes to sorting out rectums.

Not too surprisingly, the court decided that this was an illegal search in violation of Booker’s Fourth Amendment rights, and also that the doctor had committed medical battery against Booker by paralyzing him and conducting an invasive procedure against his will.

So, whatever’s got you down in the dumps at midweek, take heart that your rectum is safe, at least in the Sixth Circuit, from unreasonable police intrusion.  And, to my mind, that’s something to be thankful for 🙂

Have a great rest of the week!

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