November 2013 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

November 2013

How Did a Traffic Stop Turn Into a Colonoscopy?

This is going to sound like a George Saunders short story, but it really happened.

As you may have heard, a man in Southern New Mexico was subjected to a series of increasingly invasive and degrading medical procedures to search for non-existent drugs in his lower GI tract, all because a police officer thought he was standing funny during a traffic stop. Chris Ramirez of KOB4, the local TV station that broke this story, investigates how a routine traffic stop turned into a forced colonoscopy. 

David Eckert’s nightmare began on January 2, 2013 with an incomplete stop at a stop sign on his way home from a WalMart in Luna County. The officer who pulled Eckert over thought he was clenching his buttocks suspiciously and obtained a warrant to perform an anal cavity search. 

Eckert was taken to a nearby hospital, but the doctor refused to perform the procedure, citing an obscure concept known as “ethics.” Undeterred, the officer took Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Center in neighboring Grant County (near Truth or Consequences). According to Eckert’s medical records, obtained by KOB4, the following indignities were visited upon him: 

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

As Eckert’s civil rights lawsuit puts it, “The colonoscopy targeted an area of the Plaintiff which is highly personal and private,” all because he was supposedly standing “with an erect posture,” “keeping his legs together.” Eckert didn’t consent to any of these procedures, but the hospital billed him anyway. He’s still gets bills for thousands of dollars, according to the lawsuit. 

Eckert’s lawyers say that the warrant was invalid because it was only good for Luna County and the Gila Medical Center is located in Grant County, and because the initial search lacked probable cause. The police justified the search of Eckert’s car on the grounds that their police dog, Leo, had “alerted” them to the presence of drugs in the vehicle, but no drugs were found. In 2012, Leo “alerted” officers to drugs in Eckert’s car during a traffic stop for a cracked windshield, but no drugs were found then, either, according to the lawsuit. 

How ‘bout that war on drugs, eh? 

How Jenny McCarthy Gave Julia Ioffe Whooping Cough

New Republic writer Julia Ioffe came down with whooping cough at the age of 31. So far, pertussis has caused her 72 days of hacking misery and counting. Unlike some people we could name, Ioffe’s parents had the sense to vaccinate against pertussis as a child. The vaccine doesn’t last forever, but until recently, it hasn’t been necessary for adults to get whooping cough booster shots because parents had the good sense to vaccinate their children against this onetime mass-killer of infants. As vaccination rates have fallen, pertussis incidence has more than tripled in 21 states between 2011 and 2012.

Jenny McCarthy, aka “The Girl with the Whooping Cough,” is a B-movie actress turned anti-vaccine crusader who, unaccountably, co-hosts The View on ABC. She has become the most recognizable face of the anti-vaccination movement. McCarthy has done more than anyone to hype baseless theories about the non-existent link between vaccines and autism. (The original “Girl With the Whooping Cough” was a 1910 farce about a woman who spreads pertussis to all the men she kisses, until her victims finally drag her to court. Imagine the pitch: It’s like Typhoid Mary, but funny!)

The anti-vaccine movement wraps itself in the mantle of “personal choice,” but Ioffe reminds us that their choices endanger other people. The most vulnerable population are infants who are too young to be vaccinated, but who can’t write eloquently about their misery. Babies are dying because anti-vaxxers are imposing their crackpot theories on society by allowing their medically neglected children to become tiny vectors for disease. 

#Sidney's Picks: WalMart Arrests, a Drug War Atrocity, and Justin Bieber-Related Torture

The Best of the Week’s News:

  • Three men, including a Rutherford County commissioner, have been indicted in Tennessee for allegedly torturing a man who sold them counterfeit Justin Bieber tickets.
  • Journalistic conundrum: How do you cover a compulsive liar in a position of power without spreading his lies?

NYC Event, Dec 2: The Changing Face of Unionism

Join us on Dec 2 for a lively panel discusion on the future of the union movement with guests Bruce Raynor, Andy Stern, Rich Yeselson, and Sarita Gupta, and moderator Raj Goyle.

Panelists will discuss Yeselson’s controversial prescription for the union movement, outlined in his essay Fortress Unionism, and Stern and Raynor’s counter-proposal, spelled out in their essay, Build Bridges, Not FortressesThe panel will also discuss how campaigns by low-wage workers in the fast food and big box retail are reshaping the labor movement. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation and the Rubin Foundation. 

What: The Changing Face of Unionism: New ideas for labor in the 21st Century

When: Dec 2, 6-8pm. 

Where: 17 W. 17th St, Manhattan, NY. (8th Floor)




The Dark History of Anatomy in Nazi Germany

Emily Bazelon digs deep to uncover the hidden history of anatomical science in the Third Reich, where the decapitated corpses of political prisoners were mapped to reveal the secrets of human anatomy. 


[Photo credit: Fireezdragon, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: Court Shutters 1/3 of Texas Abortion Clinics

The Best of the Week’s News