Had Surgery in Canada? You May Have Also Had an Unintended Pelvic Exam

7 years ago

The headline screamed at me. It couldn't have been any louder: "Time To End Pelvic Exams Done Without Consent." You mean, pelvic exams without consent happen? Regularly? In Canada?

Yes, it seems they do, according to Andre Picard's article in the Globe and Mail today.

Medical students routinely practice doing internal pelvic examinations while surgery patients are unconscious and without getting specific consent, at least in Canada.

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.”

Implicit. Who knew that it could be such a loaded word in the hands of doctors. Her Bad Mother chafes at the term as well.

Implicit? What part of me undergoing surgery "implies" that I'm okay with having a little unscheduled nether-probage? Is it the fact that I'm unconscious? Doesn't that sound a little bit like the defense of a rapist with a roofie stash?

I've never has surgery in a hospital. I've been put under general anesthesia when I got my wisdom teeth in an oral surgeon's office out, but that's it. But what this means, to me, is that tomorrow I could get appendicitis, have to have surgery and wake up having had a "bonus" pelvic exam, because someone in their infinite brilliance has decided that if I were given the choice to let a medical student give me a pelvic exam, I wouldn't let them. Clearly the best way to go about it is to let them squeeze it in while I'm unconscious and don't know about it. That's an excellent plan! The student gets to practice. And me? Me, I'd just be violated. What does that matter to them? Apparently not much.

Shannon just wants someone to tell her it isn't true.

Do medical schools -- doctors and nurses in the room, anybody involved in this -- truly not see the horrible, disgusting privacy violation here? To be used as a practice dummy without your consent? To have clumsy medical students insert speculums in your vagina and peer around like you're a bunny hill on a ski slope and they're the beginners? To be treated like an object, without even knowing about it?

When I twittered the link to the Globe and Mail article, I asked three questions: Had surgery in Canada? Were you unconscious? Sure you didn't get a pelvic exam, too?

The answers came quick and fast. They were responses of shock.

@katesbookblog - "Totally horrified by that story. I had no idea."

@blitheblather - "Even worse? I've HAD surgery a teaching hospital. Feeling a wee bit sick to my stomach right now"

@Stormsy - "I'm totally freaked out by that news ... "

@Muchmor (the only man to respond) - "that's shocking and should be stamped out -- isn't assault without consent?"

@Canadajane - "This is one of the worst things I have read in a long time and something should be done to stop this evil assault now."

Cupcakecowgrll was the one that pointed me to the Globe and Mail article. On her blog, The Best Laid Plans, she asks what we are all wondering -- how do stop something like this?

We stop it by not being silent about it. We stop it by telling out elected officials we won't stand for this. We stop it by writing to organizations like the Canadian Medical Associate. We stop it by writing hospitals and medical schools. There are over 16 million women in Canada, and we can make a mighty roar.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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