Med students are doing vaginal exams on unconscious, non-consenting patients
A report conducted by investigative journalists has found that that a large proportion of medical students have performed vaginal examinations on unconscious and non-consenting patients.
The article, which was published by VICE, shows that many hospitals and universities allow students to insert two gloved fingers into the vagina of an anaesthetized patient, placing one hand on her pelvis in order to feel the uterus and ovaries.
The practice, which is allegedly conducted for the sake of training and educational purposes, remains legal in 42 states, even though it has been banned in a number of medical schools (such as Harvard, to name but one). The procedure has been deemed to be a form of sexual assault by a number of critics, who believe that it is also a profound violation of trust and abuse of power.
Savanah Harshbarger, who enrolled at the Duke University School of Medicine in 2016, told VICE: "I estimate that I did about 10 of these exams last year."
The publication also spoke to a woman named Ashley Weitz, a rape survivor, who woke up halfway through a routine procedure to treat her nausea, to find that the doctor who had anaesthetized her was examining her genitals. Weitz stated: "Not only did this feel like a violation, it absolutely was a violation."
She added: "It changed the way that I sought and received medical care. I was, you know, thereafter very certain that I was never going to be sedated or unconscious in a manner that would have allowed that situation to happen again. So it was in itself very traumatizing."
According to a statement released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Pelvic examinations on an anaesthetized woman that offer her no personal benefit and are performed solely for teaching purposes should be performed only with her specific informed consent obtained before her surgery."
Eight states, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia, have outlawed non-consensual pelvic exams, and the state of New York is due to pass similar prohibitive legislation. However, the practice remains legal in the other 41 states.