Zoë Naseef for BUST writes:
Did you know that doctors and med students are allowed to practice pelvic exams on patients who they are under anesthesia for unrelated surgeries? Did you know that they do not need to ask first, or let them know after if it happened?
It is very common for teaching hospitals around the world to have med students “practice” performing pelvic exams on a surgical patient while they are under anesthesia without their consent, or even knowledge. According to Medscape, oftentimes, multiple med students will practice on the same patient. In the US, non-consensual pelvic exams are legal in every state besides Hawaii, California, Illinois, and Virginia.
Phoebe Friesen, a medical researcher, published an article called “Educational Pelvic Exams On Anesthetized Women: Why Consent Matters” in which she studied the phenomenon. She noted that in 2005, a study at University of Oklahoma “found that a large majority of medical students had given pelvic exams to gynecologic surgery patients who were under anesthesia, and that in nearly three quarters of these cases the women had not consented to the exam.” She also states that “the vast majority (72–100%) of women say they expect to be specifically consented for an educational pelvic exam performed while they are under anesthesia” and that many women “said they would feel ‘physically assaulted’ if not consented.”
According to Medscape, a 2007 study done in Canada found that 72 percent of med students admitted to having done a pelvic exam on an anesthetized patient. A common argument for these non-consensual pelvis exams made by doctors is that many patients would say no—which is really a further reason for why they should be asking. If patients are not willing to be used as test subjects, medical school should hire people to practice on who are informed and willing.
Lauren Dobson-Hughes, an activist and former president of Planned Parenthood, wrote a thread on Twitter about this epidemic. She said that after there was media coverage about this happening, many people came forward about unexplained internal bruising and vaginal pain after undergoing an unrelated surgery. She heard anecdotally from many others saying their demands for their own medical records had been blocked or redacted as hospitals attempt to cover up their rape-y practices.