Forced Catheterization of Child Leaves Pain, Legal Questions


PIERRE SD – The forced catheterization of a three-year-old boy in Pierre has left the child in pain, and his family with many unanswered legal questions. Weeks after sending a letter to the Department of Social Services, the A-C-L-U of South Dakota still has not received justification for the agency’s use of the invasive measure without a warrant, which gave the boy a staph infection.

A-C-L-U Legal Director Courtney Bowie compares the method to cavity searches, which are only performed without a warrant in jails or prisons. She says the Fourth Amendment securing people against warrantless searches has little meaning if doesn’t protect against instances such as this. “The exception would undo the rule if they can conduct body-cavity  searches or catheterizations on suspicion of a misdemeanor without a warrant saying they can do that.” says Bowie.   D-S-S and police told the boy’s mother they had to get urine samples from him and his sister after the mother’s boyfriend was busted for drug possession. According to the A-C-L-U, the woman was told she would lose her children if she didn’t comply. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has said catheterization is sometimes appropriate, although he was not necessarily referring to this situation.

Catheterization isn’t a common practice in South Dakota, and Bowie says the few cases she’s aware of are limited to Pierre and police have had warrants to get urine samples. However, Bowie says even warrants must clearly lay out the methods that are going to be used for searches, so a judge can determine whether it’s absolutely necessary. Bowie stated, “I think they think, ‘We have a warrant for urine, so we can catheterize  people.’ And our position is, ‘You need to run that by a judge.’ It just  seems to me like it’s a means or a practice of humiliating people.”

Bowie says the A-C-L-U is considering litigation. She also notes there  are far less traumatic and invasive methods for getting a sample from a  child, such as drawing blood.

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