It’s a terrifying thought: being put under anesthesia and, while you are under, having unwanted or unnecessary procedures performed on you. But according to an article in Canada’s the Globe and Mail, it’s exactly what’s happening in many Canadian teaching hospitals—medical students are being instructed to perform gynecological exams on unconscious women. In the US and the UK, written consent is required, but in Canada, according to the article, “guidelines state that pelvic examination by trainees is ‘implicit.’”

This practice went unnoticed until 2007, when a medical student refused to perform such an exam, thinking it unethical, and called his sister, also a medical student, to ask her opinion on it. After realizing what she had unknowingly done, she proceeded to poll her friends and found that 72 percent of them had performed gynecological exams on women under anesthesia.

Given, performing pelvic exams are required for students to complete their medical training--but surely they should at least ask beforehand? It even seems that the medical students may not have realized that they were conducting the exams without permission. In that case, was the creation of the guideline motivated by wanting to avoid paperwork or having total disregard for women? Perhaps there is no one person in particular to blame in this situation, but it’s clear these rules need to change.

In the recent healthcare debate in America, Canada is often pointed to as a country that’s “getting it right”—but with news like this, it seems that Canada is committing some major wrongs towards women.

Image via Salon.com


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