Thanks to commenter MKP for letting me know about this extremely revealing, extremely disturbing article about how medical students routinely practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients who’ve been anesthetized for ob-gyn procedures.
From the article: ***trigger warning***
Medical student Hilary Gerber of Mom’s Tinfoil Hat was offered the chance to perform a pelvic exam on an unconscious female patient by an operating room nurse at the local hospital not affiliated with her school. Wrote Gerber:
I participated in a dilation and curettage on a woman who was experiencing an incomplete abortion. I was in the room before the procedure and the OR nurse offered to let me do a pelvic exam on her, since the patient was already anesthetized.
Gerber declined the offer.
Although I was…initially tempted by the learning experience, I didn’t want to do it without her permission, and made myself consider her as a patient and a person, not as a pathology or anatomy in front of me. Yes, I knew she was going to have a pelvic procedure that she already consented to, and I even had the opportunity to introduce myself to her before she was anesthetized, but I knew it wasn’t diagnostic for me to do a pelvic on her in this situation, wouldn’t change the course of her treatment, and questioned the ethics of it.
She is not alone in her unwillingness to perform a pelvic exam on an anesthetized patient without her consent. Dr. Michael Greger, author of Heart Failure: Diary of a Third Year Medical Student, refused to perform nonconsensual pelvic exams on anesthetized patients as a student.
[Question]: Are all women who are put under general anesthesia in a hospital practiced on by students while unconscious?
[Dr. Greger]: All women in the OB/GYN department at most teaching hospitals and hospitals affiliated with a medical school are. If you’re anesthetized and you’re in the OB/GYN department, you probably have had students practice pelvic exams on you regardless of what you’re in the hospital for – even if the procedure you need doesn’t require a pelvic exam!
Additionally, while doctors don’t go to other departments — such as general surgery patients, neurosurgery patients or cardiac surgery patients — if your surgeon is an OB/GYN, odds are there’s going to be a team of hungry medical students waiting for you to fall asleep.
If this sounds overly sensational or exaggerated to you, read the rest of the interview. It made my skin crawl. Personally, I paid particular attention to the doctor’s advice on what to do to avoid being the subject of a non-consensual exam while anesthetized.