Ms.Sampson, 50, had previously used the psychiatric division of the hospital’s emergency department because of disabilities stemming from emotional and sexual abuse as a child. On March 25, 2005, suffering from severe migraine headaches, she went to the emergency department, where staff sent her to the psychiatric division. A nurse told her to disrobe completely. Ms Sampson took off everything but her pants, explaining that her history of sexual abuse made her fearful of removing them. She agreed to a thorough pat-down by a doctor to confirm that she had no unsafe object on her body.

After the pat-down, which confirmed that Ms. Sampson did not have any unsafe material, the nurse still insisted that Ms. Sampson remove her pants. The nurse then called five male security guards into Ms. Sampson’s small room. “I got really scared when they all crowded into the room before they even touched me,” she said. “I started having flashbacks of my father ripping my clothes off.”

While the guards held Ms. Sampson down by her arms and legs and pulled off her pants, she said, “I was screaming, ‘you are raping me.’ One said, ‘I don’t want to rape you,’ and I thought, ‘but you are, you are.’”

The lawsuit, known as Sampson v. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, asked the court to require the hospital to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates “reasonable accommodation” of an individual’s disability. In this case, that would involve waiving the search policy unless a psychiatrist documented imminent risk to the patient or others. The hospital adopted new policies as part of the settlement. View the search policy and the restraint policy.

A March 2009 settlement ended the lawsuit filed in federal district court by Cassandra Sampson, charging that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and one of its nurses, without justification, had five male guards forcibly strip after she went to the emergency room for treatment of migraine headaches. The suit requested damages to compensate Ms. Sampson for “severe emotional and physical injuries” and reform of hospital policies that discriminate on the basis of psychiatric disability.


U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts


June 2006


Closed (March 2009)


Cassandra Sampson


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Heather A. Richter