Critical Decisions

The ins and outs of our medical decisions

Inappropriate Touching in the Doctor’s Office

I felt a woman’s uterus without her permission. How this happened, and why I thought I had done the right thing at the time, tells us something important about medical education and shows us why doctor/patient interactions often play out like conversations between earthlings and aliens. Read More

Yuck!

That is just creepy!

I feel violated just reading

I feel violated just reading this and wonder if it's ever happened to me. In essence, what you're saying is that men who assaulted me in a hospital are walking around free. Sometimes your profession is truly heartless and disgusting.

It is for your own health...

It is for the sake of your own health. Doctors are not doing this to “feel” us women up, they are doing this to make sure there is not anything wrong with our organs. And that is fine. So what that the person may not have known at the time, if you made the choice to go to the hospital, the doctors have permission to look for whatever it is that could be hurting your health. That is how I look at it. And a pelvic exam is just a physical exam, it is not like they are making changes to your body without you knowing.

It's the not asking for clear

It's the not asking for clear consent that makes it wrong and a violation of the woman's body. It's almost as if they know it's wrong because they don't ask for consent, like they have something to hide. It's not about changing your body. It's about touching an intimate part in itself. To some women, that is changing their body.

female patient abuse

You're a clueless woman who can't see the forest through the trees.Because of a male heterosexual doctors DNA testosterone and chemical makeup, there is no possible way he cannot be sexually excited and sexually invested in seeing and touching an "ATTRACTIVE"
woman intimatly, no matter how much nudity he sees. There are just as many female doctors as male doctors. It should be criminal to take your teenage daughter to a male pediatrician [possibly a pediphile] and if he works alone without giving a young girl a choice of a female doctor, you need to get your daughter the hell out of there. Just review the thousands of cases of sexually abusive male doctors on the internet. Why the media and society give these voyeristic wolves in sheep's clothing no accountability for giving the attractive women overzealous examination I'll never know. Wise up ladies, stay out of the doctors sexual fantasy and go to a female doctor or nurse practitioner who has the same body parts you do.

It's rape

If you are not asked for your consent and a pelvic exam is done without your consent when it is not needed for emergency reasons then it is rape. As someone who is not normal done there anyway this worries me because I was forced as a child to be entertainment for medical doctors to all get their chance to feel me up, photograph me and get their jollies viewing the freaky little hermaphrodite child. So I know if I had ever been used as an experiment in the situation described in the article that it probably attracted even more than usual attention for medical students. This is disgusting. Everyone is a human being and deserves respect and the right to consent. Doctors have no right to use any of us as experiments or display models for students. We did not consent to this. I hate doctors for the way I was treated as a child especially having a perv doctor photograph my genitals to show his friends. Just because you are a doctor does not make you God. A great many doctors I have know personally are some of the most screwed up people I've ever known and they can't be trusted anymore than any other off the streets. A lot of pervs do go into the ob/gyn field for the sole purpose of receiving sexual pleasure from their patients. Men have been arrested for this!

Appalling

"How can an ethics lecture compete with a palpable uterine mass? "

It can't. Which is why we, as patients, trust the integrity of our physicians. To discover that physicians in training have little to no integrity is profoundly disturbing.

As a sexual abuse survivor and a woman, I'm absolutely appalled that anyone could ever think this was acceptable. There is simply no excuse for that. How would you feel if that happened to your mother or your daughter?

Medical education and ethics

It's a shame that some supervisors tend to de-humanize individuals during the treatment process. The client/patient becomes less of a person, and more of a set of symptoms. I understand that some level of detachment is necessary, but some degree of empathy seems necessary as well.

If this is not being

If this is not being documented on the woman's medical records then this is a lawsuit waiting to happen just for that reason alone. Look some women are paid to allow examines be done on them for students. Let those women be examined, not women who have not given their consent. If I found out this had ever happened to me I would sue the doctor for all he and the hospital was worth. Now I am paranoid it might have happened to me because I was in surgery for 4 hours for a simple wrist surgery that was a repeat of one done a year earlier that only took 30 minutes. Since women would be subjected to an even higher dose of anethesia to give them time to be examined you are putting the patient's life at additional risk not to mention charging them and the insurance companies for additional anethesia, oxygen and so forth.

That does happen!

I can't believe I'm saying this here but people need to know that can and do happen! A female nurse practitioner rubbed my clitoris vigorously during a pelvic exam. No doc has ever done that and I felt violated.

As a health care analyst,

As a health care analyst, this is also a very impractical way to learn how to conduct the exam. When a person isn't aware, how can you possibly know you're doing it right? I've been to doctors who caused pain during the exam. Perhaps if they learned on real women's bodies, not a sedate set of relaxed muscles, they would do better. You are falsely led to believe you're good at it.

My husband pointed out that women put up with a lot of stuff in the name of medicine that most men would never tolerate. As he put it, some men who found out this sort of thing was done to them during surgery would skip over feeling violated and go straight to getting violent, calling a lawyer, refusing future surgery, etc.

He noticed that women receive "bikini medicine" - there's a default priority given to our bikini zones, even if they're fine and don't matter to other health issues we face. There's a tremendous and sly amount of sexism in our health care.

I made a very thoughtful and informed decision to stop getting these exams a few years ago. I accept the consequences, but statistically, and given my person health, I am very unlikely to face any.

Thank you, Dr. Ubel, you have convinced me to continue to stay away from your specialty.

Society condones assault on women

You're point is well taken. Concerning the bikini zone comment I think your husband is correct. It reminds me of the time when I was junior high age and went to pediatrician for a sore throat. My throat was never addressed, but I was forced to undress and next thing I know his hand was up my vagina. I don't know why my mom allowed this as she was in the room the whole time. To be fair though its not always male medical examiners who are inappropriate as I have had a female radiologist who did my breast ultrasound stalk me on and off over several years after she found out my church, showed up there basically wanting a date and years later ended up in hosp for another ultrasound where I caught her taking papers out of my chart that had my address. Yet a different female radiologist demanded I hug her while I was unclothed. As an adult I've gone to a doctor for something simple like say thyroid and been told I could not be treated for it till I agreed to a gyno exam. I flat out tell them no. Just like pedophiles go into jobs that give them access to young people like teaching, coaching, etc I think sex perverts go into medicine so they can fondle people.

To the many folks who've commented so far

I totally understand how awful this practice is, but want to add a bit more perspective.

1. Doctors/med students/nurses should not examine patients without their permission

2. Being at a teaching hospital and being told you will be seen by students does NOT amount to permission.

3. When asked, most women are happy to allow students to perform these exams on them, to advance their education. People are generous!

4. When these unconsented exams do take place, though, they are not rape (nothing sexual and nothing violent about the act). This is about students learning to do their jobs. That said: I'm NOT excusing the behavior. Just putting it into perspective

5. This is not just a sexist thing. I have seen this happen for men with rectal masses, too.

Big picture: People like me are trying to educate the profession to only "practice with permission." We are getting there.

thanks

re: #4

They may not be "rape", but a violation is a violation due to the lack of informed consent. In some states it is considered assault to sleep with someone who is drunk or otherwise deemed incapable of giving informed consent, such as being under a certain age or below a certain mental capacity.

The main point is that if your profession had been honest to begin with, it would never be in this mess. One could say it has some explaining to do, but we already know the answer.

Definition of rape

Excerpted from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/rape

"Lack of consent is a necessary element in every rape. But this qualifier does not mean that a person may make sexual contact with a minor or incapacitated person who actually consented. Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim. Persons who are physically or mentally helpless or who are under a certain age in relation to the perpetrator are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex...In West Virginia, a person commits sexual assault in the second degree by engaging in sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion with another person without that person's consent, and the lack of consent results from forcible compulsion."

Sedation/anaesthesia would make someone unable to consent, just as drugging one's date with roofies and then having sex with her is rape. It's the act that matters: Not the state of mind of the perpetrator. I'm sure that many doctors and medical students have their education in mind when they are examining a woman under anaesthesia. It may result in grave bodily harm if she dies or is injured from being under anaesthesia longer than was needed for the surgery. It's also placing a financial burden upon her and/or any third party payer for the procedure. Insurance companies want a reason why they're paying for 4 hours of anaesthesia for a half hour surgery, and lacking one, will likely deny it causing the patient to have to pay for the additional time.

The issue is CONSENT. And, as another commenter noted, people are generous, and asking the patient to consent to medical students examining her pathological condition while she is sedated is something she is likely to agree to while she is awake. Burying it in vague language in a long form she had to sign, and failing to sign it would mean a lack of treatment, she is likely to sign - under duress - which is not legally enforceable. It does not constitute informed consent.

Your upcoming book

Authors try to stir the pot right before their book comes out. An old PR trick. Who knows if anything you wrote here is honest.

It is rape

Any time a woman's vagina is penetrated against her will by a person wielding any object it is RAPE. That is the definition of rape. I don't know why men think they can come up with any excuse to get out of the fact that they raped a woman. Having a medical degree does not give you the right to violate anyone. My thought on rapists is they should have their genitals cut off then shot in the head, if a doctor penetrates a female or male without their consent they should be treated in the same way as any other rapist.

I've heard how ob/gyn schools are just lots of sex between students, basically the whole thing is a orgy. That's fine if students want to do that among themselves, but not everyone shares your same sexual fetishes. Many medical personnel do get sexual pleasure from what they do to patients.

Being a Registered Nurse and

Being a Registered Nurse and having been assaulted by an E.R. Dr. at age 17, I'm grateful that this topic is being brought to light. It does happen, and will continue to happen. Med students and Doctors need educated regaurding what is and is not appropriate when treating or examining a woman or man for that matter. Patients need to know the warning signs as well, and what to do if anything inappropriate happens to them. The pt. you examined, Doctor, would be scarred for life if she were to find out what had been done to her. I do respect your honesty though, and I commend you for trying to do the right thing now.

Abuse may be encouraged by the system

When the 'pill' (oral contraceptive) was first widely available in the 1970s, the drug companies crafted guidelines for its prescription that justified a prolonged sexual assault for any male doctor that wished to take advantage. It was common for females wanting the pill (some of whom were children, requiring it for non-sexual reasons), to be forced to do a striptease in front of the doctor, and then, when naked, have their breasts groped for an extended period.

The drug guidelines allowed just about every form of touching and questioning a perverted doctor could wish for, and what's more, the same was allowed every few months when the prescription was renewed.

Did every doctor use the opportunity of the pill to abuse their patients? Of course not. But, remember, the pill, which was not 'medicine' treating an illness, was required by very many extremely healthy young women at the beginning of their sexual life- and this was putting temptation beyond compare in front of a generation of male doctors.

In many European countries, this practice continues, where women are expected to strip naked in front of the male doctor, and stay fully naked, even for questioning and exam stages that require no bodily access at all. This process, while a treat for some bad doctors, is designed to make people submissive and pliable to 'authority', which is why the more forceful populations of English-speaking nations no longer tolerate this behaviour by doctors.

The intimate medical inspection of any Human beyond early childhood is very controversial if that inspection is done to a person without any previous signs of disease or injury. Certainly, the examination of the external genitalia of patients who did not previously suggest they thought they had a problem there is almost always going to be abusive, and without medical validity. When doctors got to grope every single young adult that was forced to appear before them (with no medical justification at all- which is why such school exams no longer occur in countries like the UK), latent abusive tendencies were bound to be activated in a significant proportion of doctors.

When doctors are told they are allowed to touch the clitoris of a female, or the penis of a male, or ask intimate sexual questions (obviously in situations where the patient has not previously suggested a problem in those areas), the doctor is being programmed to be abusive. Add to this the fact that doctors are clever enough to be extremely manipulative, if they so wish, and are protected against legal action by a raft of extremely powerful and influential professional bodies, and you craft a nightmare.

Go read about the Mormon doctor who spent a whole career abusing a town of victims, from young children to the oldest women. Go read about one of the highest men in Australia's medical community, who made a speciality of subjecting young, attractive flight-stewardesses to prolonged sexual assault in the name of a regular medical inspection.

The common pattern is the abuse of patients who are not appearing in front of the doctor because of illness, but because of some required inspection. Indeed, most claims of abuse are against doctors who only see the patient once, because of some required work-place or insurance medical inspection.

Voilated at the health clinic or not?

I feel violated by yesterdays visit to the health clinic. I had to get my anal check because of a lump. The WHNP-C was not assisted she was all alone with me. It hurt and felt like she did not use any lubrication while feeling my anus. It hurt like there was not any lubrication and I know this, since two years ago I had hemorrhoid surgery. I use Nupercainal on my anus about 1 to 2 times a week, I know the difference of the feeling of lubrication or not. Then unexpectedly she put a finger in my vagina without letting me know, moved it around and then back in my anus, and moved her finger around even more. I am so confused. Am I in the right to feel violated?

I think that you are in the

I think that you are in the right to feel violated. There should have been a nurse or assistant also in the room when such an exam was taking place. I can only relate it to a pap, and the nurse is always in there when the doctor is giving the exam, and he always communicates to me what he is doing before he does it. If you have a regular doctor that you would usually see for this (or even just your family doc?) I would try to speak to them about it. Maybe even ask more than one doc (like a second opinion). If this is an exam that you have had before, then you are probably familiar with how it would normally be. I know you are probably embarrassed and reluctant in some ways to want to say anything, but please speak up. I send you courage.

Inappropriate touching by pediatrician?

I have struggled with this all my life (I'm 38) and hope that someone can give me some insight. I have always felt like my pediatrician touched me inappropriately. Whenever I went for a doctor visit, regardless of the reason (fever, sore throat, etc..) I was made to undress down to my underwear. Then when he would examine me I would have to take my underwear off and he would have me lie on the table, or have me sit on my mom's lap and he would sit in a chair across from her and prop my legs up on his lap, and he would pull back the folds and look. I was always uncomfortable, and really disgusted, by this. When I was about 10 or 11 he had me lie on the table and gave me a rectal exam, even though there was nothing wrong with me that would have warranted him doing this. When I was about 12 or 13 my doctor was unavailable so my mom took me to a different doctor. I was never made to undress, my ears/nose/throat were looked at, lungs listened to, prescription wrote, and I was sent on my way. After that, I don't remember ever going back to my doctor, anytime I was sick my mom just took me to the "doc in a box". Was what he did part of normal childhood exams? Like I said, this happened any and every time, and even at a young age it felt very wrong to me.

Inappropriate touching by a cardiologist

I'm writing on this page to see if any other women have experienced the same inappropriate behaviour from a certain cardiologist in suburban Victoria. It happened almost 30 years ago and I'd pushed it to the back of my mind until the recent celebrity scandals which have surfaced from years ago, prompting me to write this.

I was a fairly new mother and was experiencing heart palpitations so I was sent to see the cardiologist. I was asked to disrobe down to my underpants and lay on my back on the examination table and do numerous fast sit-ups to get my heart racing. After this, the doctor physically examined my stomach area and then down to my pubic area. I cannot remember if he touched my breasts.

For my next visit, I disrobed down to my petticoat, which was too big for me in the bodice and the doctor tugged at it (the breast area) and commented that it was a bit big for me.

I will not name this cardiologist publicly but would like to know if anyone else has had this experience with this type of examination.

Inappropriate remarks

A friend of mine had inappropriate remarks made to her by her doctor who said regarding a possible colonoscopy test, "I wouldn't mind pushing an inspection tube up your a--!" She is wondering if she has any legal recourse even though there were no witnesses.

sigh

I'm afraid I do not see any way to handle this through the legal system. I would recommend your friend go on to Angie's list, or find some other way to let people know that she does not recommend they go to this physician. Word-of-mouth might be the best remedy for this kind of highly inappropriate behavior.

Are you serious? Because you

Are you serious? Because you can't touch the uterus from sticking your fingers into the vagina. This is incredible I hope that you are not a doctor anymore. You and the woman you instructed you to enter the patient like that.

I feel my doctor touched me inappropriately

I was to have a rectal exam. ..Dr. told me to bend over exam table and my whole bottom exposed....i then felt two of his fingers inside my vagina moving around as he were making small talk im trying to let him know that is not the one....he then removed his fingers from my vagina and inserted them into my anus...after he had finished i felt violated, embarrassed and ashamed...since this has happened there is not one day or sleepless night that have without thinking about this...sometimes i feel maybe he did not know or maybe he did but after some research he should have told me the correct way to stand and he didnt...most importantly he should know the difference in the feel of both the vagina and anus...being a woman they both are different ...i also feel that he should know that my anus is not between my legs....i have never been raped before but sure feels like it....what should i do ...maybe he had done this before...now i feel differently about male doctors doing any private exams on me ever....

re:exam

If he did not say beforehand there would be a vaginal examine then yes that is sexual assault. Several things come to mind... one is your post doesn't suggest there was a female nurse in the room. By law a female nurse is required to be present anytime a female is examined "down there". Also it's extremely rare for females to need digital anal exams. Men have that done to examine their prostate, so typically there is no reason for women to have that done. Vaginal exams are done with woman in stirrups on table with a speculum, not bent over. So it highly suggests it was an assault. You might consider reporting him. Women should never let male doctors examine them below the belt. It's honestly not safe for the woman because male doctors are still men first and too many men have demonstrated a propensity for rape.

no there was not a nurse in

no there was not a nurse in there, but he asked if I wanted someone to come in and I said no because as an adult and he being a physician I never would have thought that he would do something like this.....it was suppose to just be just an rectal exam. I honestly feel that he knew the difference in the two...first he had to feel the labia by my vagina and to me the two feel very different so I don't know why he did that....I want to address him? I don't know what to do next!!!! can't stop thinking about this....any suggestions? this really have me torn on the inside, it's on my mind day in and day out.....

re: no nurse

The fact he asked you if you wanted a nurse suggests he planned this. Because it's not suppose to be an option according to my female ob/gyn that they have to have a witness even for female doctors whether the patient wants one or not. If this guy is sick in the head it might even be he considered your declining a nurse to be a sign that you were ok with him getting sexual with you. You might want to talk with other patients and see if he does this to other women. I'm thinking he probably does. There is no way he could have been confused between the vagina and rectum as he can see what he is doing. Most non-medically trained people can tell the difference. Getting the two confused would just be an excuse. You need to report him to the medical board. You also need to never see him again as he might try something worse next time.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Peter Ubel, M.D., author of Critical Decisions and Free Market Madness, is a physician, behavioral scientist, and Professor of Business and Public Policy at Duke University.

more...

Subscribe to Critical Decisions

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.