Colorado has adopted extensive laws requiring patient consent for sedated vaginal exams.

DENVER (AP) — Colorado providers must obtain prior patient consent Before a bill passed Thursday would allow medical students to have pelvic exams while they were unconscious for the procedure.

Lieutenant Governor Diane Primavera annexed Colorado with at least 20 other states with consent laws in signing the act on her behalf. But Colorado’s system goes far beyond other states by requiring medical students to pre-name and meet with patients. One bioethicist worries that this step could interfere with students’ learning opportunities.

Proponents of the law, which has bipartisan support, argue that all aspects can prevent patients from feeling violated and possibly re-traumatized after surviving sexual assault. are doing. They hope this will become the norm in states with weak or no consent laws.

“Discovering a non-consensual intimate examination can be traumatic and leave patients reliving the worst moments of their lives. We intend to put an end to this unethical practice,” the bill said. Democratic Rep. Lorena Garcia, a co-sponsor, said in a statement.

The goal is to ensure that the patient is fully aware and consents to allow the student to replicate the examination of the breast, pelvis, prostate, and rectum, possibly with insertion of fingers or instruments into the vagina or anus.

It is difficult to quantify the frequency with which students take such tests without informed consent. Part of the reason is that patients may not know that the test has been performed and students may be afraid to raise concerns with their superiors.

Patients typically complete a number of forms giving extensive consent for any procedures that may be medically necessary during sedation, including the student’s participation in treatment.

Under Colorado’s new law, patients must sign a consent form that explains what will happen and lists the names of potential students.

Clinical ethicist Kate Spector-Baghdadi, co-author of the 2019 recommendations from the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that deciding which students can and cannot participate before surgery can limit learning opportunities. I was worried there would be.

Spector Baghdadi argued that schedules can change quickly, especially in hospital settings. Colorado law does not allow other students to intervene and learn if the designated student is unable to attend. Such educational opportunities are essential for future doctors to become proficient in treating women, she said.

Elizabeth Newman, director of public policy for the Colorado Anti-Sexual Assault Coalition, which supports the law, said having students by name and meeting patients is an essential component of full informed consent. He said he needed to ensure that students learned the rules governing the consent process.

There are some caveats, such as a licensed physician being able to conduct the trial in an emergency where prior consent is not possible. The law includes whistleblower protection for medical students, and doctors and hospitals can be held accountable if they violate consent provisions.

Opponents of the bill and legislation across the country argue that it is an example of government needlessly interfering in the trust of patients and health care providers, and that guidance should be sought from the medical association. .


Bedayn is a reporting member of the Associated Press/United States Congressional News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that sends journalists to local newsrooms to report on cover-up issues.

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