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Canadian women are livid...and rightfully so

Remember what your parents told you? Remember what your teachers told you? No one can touch you down there without your consent. Turns out, someone forgot to tell our country's medical professionals.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a middle-aged male client's cubicle discussing a project we are working on, when tweets from @sassymonkey started popping up on his screen, including:

A few minutes later, back at my own desk, I found out what all the fuss is about. According to a Globe and Mail article, medical students in Canada routinely practice doing internal pelvic exams while women are unconcious for surgery. Pelvic exams unrelated to the surgery they are having. Apparently, the logic is that the students need to practice and women theoretically wouldn't consent if asked, so it must be done without their consent while they are unconcious.

I am glad I've never had anything but dental surgery.

I hope to hell this practice is ended before I ever do need surgery.

I have allowed students to do pelvic exams on me before while concious. I would allow it again. But the idea of not knowing how many people or which people were probing my nethers does not appeal to me. It is not appropriate. Just like mom and dad taught me. Just like my teachers taught me. I must consent. Some people are calling this the medical equivalent of a roofie.

What can you do? Write to your MP, your MPP, the Minister of Health, the Canadian Medical Association, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Make your voice heard.  You can also:

Sign this petition started by Her Bad Mother

Want to read what others are saying about this?
« Gerber Graduates: If the staple doesn't kill your child, the salt just might | Main | Covering up is a feminist issue »

Reader Comments (26)

I posted my own thoughts about it at my blog. This bothers me on a number of levels and it needs to be stopped.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I compared it to using roofies too. http://andromeda.qc.ca/?p=2282

It's disgusting.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

I hear you. That's why I always read the consent forms very carefully - in the states at least, there's usually a line or even just a clause somewhere in there about being attended by student physicians and possibly being a the subject (or object, depending on how you look at it) of their studies for the time they are present. I always cross anything like that out and initial it before turning it in - I don't want anybody coming near me in a vulnerable state except the physician with whom I'm dealing, and I especially don't want to give blanket consent to them to perform whatever studies they deem necessary. That's just creepy.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlovepeaceohana

I thought that this sort of thing was called rape.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLimor

People should also write to the Societe of Obstertricians and Gynecologist of Canada (this study appeared in their journal.) Dr. Michel Fournier from U. Laval is their president.

I am just so appalled by all of this I can't blog about it just yet. I hope someone our voices do not go unheard...

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNat

I cannot believe that it never occurred to any medical students before now that such a practice might be a violation of a woman's rights. What in the world were they thinking?!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDionna @ Code Name: Mama


January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAimee Greeblemonkey

@Nat: Thank you. That is a good suggestion too. I updated the post to add it.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Melissa & Sherry: Thank you for your links. I added them to the post too.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wha? For reals?

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

Unfortunately it happens here in the UK as well. Utter, utter violation of trust and human rights. :o/

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnji

Thank you for including my thoughts on this subject. I too would agree to a trainee doing a pelvic exam while I am conscious. But unconscious? No. I think the "roofies" comparison made by Sherry is shockingly appropriate. BTW, I emailed the SOGC first thing yesterday morning. Both their media relations officer and their director of communications. No response. I suppose I am likely the smallest fire they are dealing with right now. I will keep you posted if and when I do get a response.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercoffeewithjulie

I wonder if that happens in the USA too??? I will have to ask my friends who are doctors.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

Okay I read the article and here's the quote: "Guidelines in the United States and Britain say specific consent is required but, by contrast, Canadian guidelines state that pelvic examination by trainees is “implicit.” "

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

Yes, it happens in teaching hospitals in the US too...but there is a law against it in CA I hear.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

This makes me sick to my stomach. I can't imagine how a survivor of sexual assault would feel about this.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

I said this on HerBadMother: if I was asked prior I'd say fine. Like you I have allowed students to be involved with my exams in the past. How is the next generation supposed to be able to do it without the opportunity to do it on a real person. But to NOT ask it just wrong on SO many levels.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Although she doesn't live in Canada a friend of mine who is in the field of medicine wrote me this when I posted the article by Unnecessarean on FB yesterday:
"I read through the article, and it definitely isn't true everywhere. At least where I did my rotations, there were pages of consent forms, and a meeting with the patient, the MD, and myself before any kind of procedure... from an IV, to an intubation, to an assisted delivery. I was actually surprised at how many people consented to having a lowly paramedic student assist, and were very encouraging. Not all medicine is removed from dignity!"
So I thought - well that's great but what about the rest of us? Which is who the information was brought to light for, right?

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

@Melodie: Thanks for letting me know that Unnecesarean wrote about it to. I'm going to grab her link and add it here.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

thanks for the additional suggestions who to email ~ my morning of letter writing is now complete. this is beyond comprehension and i am beyond outraged ~ rawr!

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

WTF is wrong with people? Why do people continue to think they can go around doing whatever they want! Always in the name of medicine.

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarcel

It certainly occurs to some. I always refused to do it, even when I got an earful for it. But that doesn't get the practice changed. At the time, I reported it to our year representatives for them to pass on as a concern, which was the accepted channel for a student to report any sort of problems with the course. Years later, I found out that if the woman in charge of the course had known what was going on she would have put a stop to it (from which I'm deducing that the message never did get back to her). I should have contacted her directly to pass on my concerns, but when you're a student you don't necessarily know about the best ways to get something changed.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah V.

[...] since there is already LOTS to read from many other rightfully livid bloggers out there like this one.  There is also a petition you can sign [...]

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApprentice Mom » I don&#

It is common in the U.S. Only CA and VA have outlawed the practice.

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMC Kean

In all states save CA and VA it is legal. It is common practice, even on teens.

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMC Kean

How about this: medical students practice on each other. No degree or license until you submit to 20 pelvic and/or rectal exams performed by your fellow students. Problem solved. No more ritually raped patients. I'm not joking.

Almost every day I come a across a new reason to be even more disgusted with the medical establishment. In my opinion, this practice is not about students learning skills, it is about reinforcing power structures. Doctors have power and patients do not. Doctors can weild their power and patients are expected to submit. Doctors are gods and patients are bodies - or worse - body parts.

The whole thing makes me sick.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermom2gcnj

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