Demand Medical Students Obtain Consent Before Performing Pelvic Exams on Anesthetized Women

Target: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Goal: To require explicit consent for medical students before performing invasive pelvic exams on anesthetized women

Only four states in the U.S. currently mandate that in order for a medical student to perform a pelvic exam during a woman’s gynecological operation, the doctor must obtain specific consent prior to the procedure. In every other state, patients simply sign a tedious form indicating somewhere on it that they agree to allow medical students to be “involved in their care,” but without knowing specifically how they will be involved. This is also known as “implied consent,” but due to the extremely personal nature of the procedure, it should be mandatory for doctors to fully inform their patients of medical students’ participation and ask for clear consent beforehand.

The reason why many doctors don’t already do this is because they’re eager to provide their students with the hands-on experience and many feel they face enough regulation as it is. When asked in a survey if women would consent to pelvic exams by medical students if their doctors asked them directly, approximately 75% of them said yes. When asked by the students themselves, only about half answered yes. These statistics are seen as deterrents by doctors and so they avoid the issue altogether if they can. It is a real problem, though, since clearly a significant number of women would not consent to a pelvic exam by a medical student if they knew it was happening.

Tell the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that we respect the concerns of women undergoing gynecological procedures under anesthesia and that ignoring them equals a blatant invasion needing to be addressed. We must require explicit consent for pelvic exams conducted by medical students in all 50 states, or else we allow the misinformation to spread and invasion to continue as a result.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

In all but 4 states, there is no law in place mandating doctors to ask for specific consent before allowing medical students to perform pelvic exams on anesthetized women during gynecological operations. This needs to change, due to the personal territory of the procedure and ethical obligation to tell the patient the extent of a medical student’s involvement. Implicit consent is not enough, and the vast majority of women have no idea that someone other than their doctor might have a very invasive role in their operation. They may not agree to this, and in that case it’s necessary to ask.

Please require specific consent for pelvic exams done by medical students during gynecological surgeries. Guidelines are not enough. Regulation needs to implemented into the policies of teaching hospitals across the U.S., so that everyone can abide by the same ethical standard and we can continue to hold our hospitals in high esteem.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Fotopedia

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Signatures

  • Dorothy Lynch
  • Dorothy Lynch
  • Katherine Dunn
  • Beth Crigger
  • Beth Crigger
  • Peter Kelly
  • Janet Cadmus
  • Elise Cole
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