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Hastings Center Report

Policy, Politics, and Impact


The work of bioethicists often involves identifying an ethical problem in health or medicine and proposing a policy to address it. But the path to policy is full of twists and turns, bumps and detours. Effecting policy may be the goal, but it is far from assured. One success story is discussed here. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling in April 2024 that requires all teaching hospitals in the country to get written consent from patients before they undergo intimate medical exams. The ruling was informed by an essay in the Hastings Center Report two years ago that revealed that millions of U.S. residents have received unconsented intimate exams and that this unethical practice occurs nearly four times as often in Black patients as White patients.

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