Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Nonconsensual Pelvic Exams
On the anniversary of Mata Hari’s birth, it seems appropriate to highlight Robin Fretwell Wilson’s very interesting article, Autonomy Suspended: Using Female Patients to Teach Intimate Exams Without Knowledge or Consent, which focuses on a practice that persists in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States: nonconsensual pelvic exams. Her article explains that performing these exams on anesthetized patients without first obtaining consent is not only common practice, but also disproportionately impacts poorer women. The piece acknowledges that medical students need to learn to perform pelvic exams, but questions this practice occurring in a nonconsensual fashion. As noted by Concurring Opinion’s Melissa Waters, Professor Wilson’s advocacy on this issue has helped to spur a specific informed consent law in Virginia.