doctor holding prescription pad with pen in hand talking to a man in a blue shirt

Hastings Center News

Hastings Center Report Commentary Helps Catalyze Connecticut Action Against Unconsented Intimate Medical Exams  

A national survey, described in an essay in the Hastings Center Report, found a widespread practice, often for medical student teaching purposes, of doing pelvic and rectal exams in unconscious patients whose consent had not been sought. The practice was equally prevalent among males and female patients, but occurred four times as often in Black patients as white patients.

For years, there was knowledge of this practice but limited and inadequate legislative action. Connecticut legislators asked the Community Bioethics Forum, a consultive group founded and chaired by one of the authors of the Hastings Center Report essay, to provide their views on proposed  “explicit consent” legislation. To gain greater clarity on the demographic patterns and frequency of UIEs, the authors conducted the first national survey of UIEs. Data from the survey suggest that UIEs may occur under a broader range of circumstances than addressed by most law and policy.

The Hastings Center Report essay was distributed to Connecticut lawmakers at a critical moment in their discussion of explicit consent legislation. The lawmakers passed the legislation, and the governor signed it last month.