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New rule on rectal and vaginal exams

Health minister condemns and outlaws examinations done without consent on unconscious patients

MEDICAL staff are to be banned from performing vaginal and rectal examinations on patients who are under general anaesthetic unless previous consent has been given.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine has laid down new rules on patient care after a hospital ethics row broke out after it was revealed the practice appeared to be widespread in teaching hospitals.

A report showed up to 33% of such examinations, where medical students had been encouraged to examine unconscious patients as part of their everyday teaching, were done without the patients’ consent or knowledge.

Ms Touraine “condemned outright these illegal and inacceptable practices”.

She was reacting to statistics in a report by teaching hospital medical deans which had said only 67% of first-year students had explicit consent for examinations and 80% for students in later years.

The report said the fact that such examinations were done without explicit consent was “totally against medical principles”.

However, Le Monde reported that Jean Marty, president of the gynaecologists’ and obstetricians’ federation SGOF said the new rules were “disruptive” for the patient, while Bernard Hédon, head of the national college of gynaecologists and obstetricians, had labelled it “prudishness”.

Feminist leader Marie Allibert, of the Osez le féminisme association, said the examinations met the legal definition of rape: “An act of sexual penetration committed on another, either by violence, restraint, threat or surprise.”


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