Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Consent Policy for Pelvic Exams by Medical Students Flawed, Legals Analysts Say: Policy on Pelvic Exams Flawed: Legal Analysts

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Consent Policy for Pelvic Exams by Medical Students Flawed, Legals Analysts Say: Policy on Pelvic Exams Flawed: Legal Analysts

Article excerpt

TORONTO - The latest guidelines governing pelvic examinations for women under anesthetic leave patients less protected than they were under the previous rules, say legal analysts.

In an article in this week's Canadian Medical Association Journal, law professors say an updated policy statement on the issue requires explicit consent for medical students, such as interns, to perform pelvic examinations on women while they are unconscious.

But the policy does not include medical residents, notes co-author Prof. Elaine Gibson, associate director of the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University.

A guideline penned in 2006 by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) and the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (APOG) stated that "medical trainees" did not require explicit prior patient consent for pelvic exams performed for educational purposes.

In 2010, a public controversy arose over that policy. Critics argued that it meant women could unknowingly have pelvic exams during a gynecological procedure without having given their prior consent.

Canadian medical schools responded that patients are aware that trainees at teaching hospitals will participate in their care, and that broad consent forms signed by patients on admission include a provision that students may be involved in their surgery, including medically necessary examinations.

Patients have therefore either explicitly or implicitly consented to a pelvic exam by a student, the schools argued.

However, a 2009 study suggested many women were unaware a medical trainee might conduct a pelvic exam while they were under anesthetic for a gynecologic procedure, such as tumour removal, a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation. That study found only 19 per cent of those surveyed were aware that a medical student might conduct a pelvic examination, and 72 per cent thought they would be asked to consent first.

In response to the criticism, the SOGC and APOG revised the guideline in September 2010, dictating that "medical students" must obtain explicit prior consent from patients to perform pelvic exams. …

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