Health and Human Services instructs hospitals to get informed consent for pelvic, other exams

informed consent form being filled out

The Department of Health and Human Services is instructing teaching hospitals and medical schools to ensure they get written informed consent from patients before conducting sensitive examinations when the patient is under anesthesia.

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HHS released a statement Monday with the new guidance that when a patient has to undergo pelvic, breast, prostate or rectal exams while under anesthesia, it is “critically important” that the “providers and trainees performing these examinations first obtain and document informed consent from patients before performing sensitive examinations in all circumstances.”

The statement said: “While we recognize that medical training on patients is an important aspect of medical education, this guidance aligns with the standard of care of many major medical organizations, as well as state laws that have enacted explicit protections as well. Informed consent is the law and essential to maintaining trust in the patient-provider relationship and respecting patients’ autonomy.”

The New York Times conducted an investigation in 2020 that found that “hospitals, doctors and doctors in training sometimes conducted pelvic exams on women who were under anesthesia, even when those exams were not medically necessary and when the patient had not authorized them.”

Sometimes the exams were only for educational purposes, the newspaper found.