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Monday, September 20th 2010


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. Although I was fascinated by the opportunity, and initially was 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.

This from a medical student’s experience, writing over at Mom’s Tinfoil Hat and linked from a longer piece at The Unnecesarean. An alarmist piece.

Medical facilities where training takes place already face somewhat of a stigma. No patient wants to be a “guinea pig.” Certainly not in the dramatic examples given of non-consensual invasive pelvic exams.

But for every anecdote given there is the opposite. I have never seen nor heard in the number of places I’ve done rotations, of medical students doing pelvic exams on patients under anesthesia without those patient’s permission. Anecdotes like the above scare off patients from teaching facilities. Such is a shame.

Teaching facilities provide an unparalleled level of integrated, multi-specialty care. It features physicians who are often leaders in their field. It often offers a team of physicians, students and others who can afford the time and focus that patients deserve.

The horrors that can befall patients are not limited to an academic setting and so I hate to see anecdotes like above go unchallenged.