April 15, 2024

Federal regulations require written consent for pelvic exams at hospitals, medical schools

Editor's Note

New federal guidelines require obtaining written informed consent before conducting pelvic and other sensitive medical examinations, according to an April 2 Associated Press report.

The new guidance from the US Department of Health and Human Services focuses specifically on medical students, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants performing breast, pelvic, prostate and rectal exams for “educational and training purposes.” According to AP, “Federal regulations previously mentioned obtaining consent for ‘important tasks’ related to surgeries, and did not provide the level of detail about medical students.”

According to the report, doctors and medical students sometimes perform these exams for training on patients under anesthesia, but determining how often this happens or whether patients understand forms signed before surgery can be difficult. A recent letter sent to teaching hospitals and medical schools by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and other officials argues for “clear guidelines to ensure providers and trainees performing these examinations first obtain and document informed consent.”

According to the report, consequences for exams without consent include ineligibility for Medicare and Medicaid programs as well as fines and investigations for violating patient privacy laws.

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