Doudera to introduce Pelvic Exam Consent bill

Oct 28, 2019

Augusta — A bill to ban non-consensual pelvic exams on unconscious or anesthetized patients will be introduced by Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, when the Legislature resumes in January. LR 2696 passed a hurdle on Wednesday, Oct. 23, when it was approved unanimously by the bipartisan Legislative Council. Of the 397 bill requests screened by the Council, only 134 were approved to continue forward, as the Maine Constitution limits the scope of bills heard in the second regular session.

Doudera said that her bill provides protection and peace of mind for both patients and practitioners and is of an emergency nature. “Informed consent is a basic human right and performing pelvic exams on women who are under anesthetic and have not consented is a violation of autonomy and trust.” She noted that the practice, once commonly used to teach students standard procedures, has been denounced by the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and that it can be especially traumatic for victims of domestic violence.

“While I believe that our state’s teaching hospital, Maine Medical Center, has informed consent as a best practice, this needs to be made explicit in state law as soon as possible, so that women undergoing surgery are protected, and medical students asked to perform the procedure know they are acting ethically,” said Doudera.

Doudera said the AMA has called the non-consensual pelvic exams “a lingering stain on the history of medical education,” and that she was looking forward to conversation around the importance of informed consent, saying “The extent to which the practice continues is unclear, but what’s obvious to me is that it needs to be prohibited, except in emergency situations.”

Doudera represents District 94, comprised of Camden, Islesboro, and Rockport, and can be reached at Victoria.Doudera@maine.legislature.gov.

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