Governor Cuomo has signed into law legislation (S.1092-E/A.6325-C) that prohibits the performance of a pelvic examination without consent on an anesthetized or unconscious patient, except when clinically warranted. The law takes effect on April 4, 2020.
The law was designed to respond to reports of medical students being asked to perform such exams, without express patient consent, as part of their medical training in teaching hospitals.
Specifically, the legislation provides that “No person shall perform a pelvic examination or supervise the performance of a pelvic examination on an anesthetized or unconscious patient unless the person performing the pelvic examination is legally authorized to do so and the person supervising the performance of the pelvic examination is legally authorized to do so and:
- The patient or the patient’s authorized representative gives prior oral or written informed consent specific to the pelvic examination;
- The performance of a pelvic examination is within the scope of care for the surgical procedure or diagnostic examination scheduled to be performed on the patient and to which the patient has already given oral or written consent; or
- The patient is unconscious and the pelvic examination is medically necessary for diagnostic or treatment purposes, and the patient is in immediate need of medical attention and an attempt to secure consent would result in a delay of treatment which would increase the risk to the patient’s life or health.”
This bill also makes violation of such provision an element of physician misconduct.
Several other states have passed similar laws expressly banning this practice without clinical justification.
The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists have issued an ethical opinion that “Pelvic examinations on an anesthetized woman that offer her no personal benefit and are performed solely for teaching purposes should be performed only with her specific informed consent obtained before her surgery”.