When I entered college at 18, I joined the rest of my female classmates in the gym. There, we were asked to strip off our tops, given medial gowns and told to lie down on an available cot. We received no further explanation.
Not long after we’d settle, a number of young men in white coats entered the room, medical interns, as it turns out, who were led by a supervising physician. They followed their instructor from cot to cot and each coed was ordered to open her gown to allow the interns to perform breast exams. Too shocked to say anything, I and the rest of my classmates submitted to these gropings in silence.
To this day, I’ve never forgotten my humiliation. Like a lab rat, my privacy was discounted and without my consent, it was sacrificed upon the altar of medical instruction.
Now, after the passage of many years, I’ve learned of another long-standing medical abuse, one to which I and countless other women may have been subjected. While sedated and lying on a hospital table awaiting surgery, a woman may receive an unnecessary pelvic exam. The excuse, once again, is that interns need hands-on experience.
One woman learned of the practice prior to her operation and objected. The hospital’s response was to tell her she was free to seek medical attention elsewhere.
As women become conscious of this longstanding disrespect for their personal privacy, they are raising their voices. The hashtag #Me Too Pelvic was born and already eleven states have passed laws requiring advance consent before pelvic exams can be performed. Many more jurisdictions need to come on board. Of note, this abuse falls particularly hard on low-income women. They are the ones most likely to depend upon teaching hospitals for their healthcare.
Special Announcement to readers: As of today, this blog will be published Monday, Wednesday and Friday, rather the 5 days a week. After nearly 10 years, I’m slowing down a little.