The problem of patient sexual abuse at the hands of doctors has reached the point where it can no longer be ignored and covered up. It is encouraging to see mainstream media tackling this issue by bringing it to the public’s attention. But it is not surprising that patient sexual abuse has become a problem of such proportions when considering the medical community’s opinion of a woman’s right to privacy and dignity. Media coverage has also brought to light the unethical practice of medical students practicing pelvic exams on anesthetized women without the women’s knowledge or consent. In addition, doctors routinely pressure women into vaginal and breast exams without first offering informed consent, thus placing women in vulnerable positions and increasing their exposure to sexual abuse.
Links to media coverage of patient sexual abuse:
Part One: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/12/09/toronto-ontario-doctors-sexual-abuse-discipline.html
Part Two: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/12/10/toronto-ontario-doctors-do-no-harm.html
Part Three: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/12/11/toronto-ontario-doctors-signs-do-no-harm.html
Thanks for helping to increase awareness
I was thrilled to see CBC news covering this topic as it most often is ignored, so it was my pleasure to post it here. Thanks for your comment Katie 🙂
Personally, I’ve always believed the “requirements” (that were never, by the way, clinical requirements) for the Pill amounted to abuse/assault. If doctors banded together and decided they’d refuse to prescribe Viagra until men agreed to a completely unnecessary genital exam, how long do you think that would last? When I was 20 in 1978 almost all doctors were male and the “requirements” placed around the Pill were frightening…the profession knew the only “actual” clinical requirements were a blood pressure test and a review of your medical history. (they also knew women who use the Pill are mainly under 40 and many are very young, even teenagers)
If you look at transcripts from the Medical Board, well, one of the things they do to decide whether a doctor’s conduct is appropriate, is to consider whether a certain exam was clinically necessary. In one hearing an older male doctor was facing a complaint of sexual misconduct after allegedly trying to kiss a patient who’d refused a pap test. (she wanted the Pill)
The doctor in his Defence mentioned another of his patients – this 23 year old patient asked him for the Pill, he refused to prescribe it without a pap test, she left and returned later for the test. (after her boyfriend apparently, pressured her) The test result is “abnormal”, the young woman is referred for “treatment” and later sends the doctor some flowers for saving her life. A common story…and it is a story.
There is no doubt in my mind this young woman had a false positive result and was over-treated, yet the false positive serves to scare this woman into future compliance. Added bonuses: she is less likely to complain about the coercion, she might tell other woman about her “scare”, pressure and advise others, “the pap test saved my life”..”it’s a good thing the doctor pressured me” (normalizing coercion) and of course, the doctor looks like a hero.
The Board said the patient (who said the doctor tried to kiss her) was entitled to refuse a pap test…yet they said nothing about the doctor’s practice of requiring pap tests before prescribing the Pill or letting women leave with no Pills…simply because they’ve exercised their legal right to refuse elective cancer screening. The Board ignored the elephants in the room. What does that say to you about the system?
The fact the doctor mentioned the 23 year old patient in his Defence shows how comfortable he was admitting he refused women the Pill until they had pap tests, he knew the system permitted it or conveniently looked the other way. This was a sound assumption as the Board made no comment about the appropriateness of that conduct. The complaint about his conduct was dismissed by the way – his word against her word.
IMO, the promotion of opportunistic screening, linking the Pill to screening, (a “requirement”) and permitting that to happen, screening targets and target payments to GPs means consent itself becomes a blurry concept in practice. Our rights and bodies can then be safely violated and it exposes women to all sorts of predatory dangers….with a system that protects the program and doctors.
Elizabeth, great example of how women can be taken advantage of by drs. I have copied and pasted a portion from the link you had provided in a previous post:
“Evidence considered by the NSC showed cervical cancers among women under 25 were extremely rare and most abnormalities clear up on their own. Screening this group would mean a high number would be unnecessarily referred for further investigation, leading to anxiety, the committee said.”
The false positives from pap tests are extremely high among young women, and then when a biopsy is done the tissue scraped/punched from the cervix is destroyed. This renders it impossible to prove there was nothing wrong with the cervix in the first place. It is important to keep in mind that cervical cancer is EXTREMELY RARE in this age group. So in the scenario you posed above, the young woman is traumatized twice; first when the dr attempts to kiss her, and then when she is scared into further humiliating procedures after receiving a false positive pap result. The dr however, gets away with the abuse and also ends up looking like a hero. Very frustrating indeed.
Patient sex abuse? Isn’t that the definition of “gynecology”?
Our society doesn’t respect women to begin with. Sexual abuse is a matter of degree: rape, medical rape, medical “treatment”, just plain using a woman for consensual casual sex, porn/stripping/prostitution. At least two of those are legal even though they all do emotional harm to a person.
I was thinking about a hypothetical situation the other day. If a woman I barely know offers me sex, should I say yes or no? At first, I think of the trouble it could cause in my own life. But even if I don’t care about myself, what about her? How would it affect her self esteem years later to have one more person treat her like a soulless object?
Sexual “abuse” is often relegated to something extreme that only a “criminal” would engage in, which leaves open the possibility for lots of disrespectful treatment on the part of so-called “decent” people. The “decent” people need to wake up, because often the way they treat people is not so decent.
This is a very old thread, but one line in your response got me: “Sexual “abuse” is often relegated to something extreme that only a “criminal” would engage in”
That is true. There is a lot of criminal behavior that goes on in the medical setting. The setting does not change that they are performing criminal acts, thus are criminals – albeit wearing white coats.
We have received some disturbing cases from women who were coerced into having pap smears and rectal exams without consent. I encourage you to look at important information every one should read about sexual misconduct by doctors at http://www.sexualmisconductbydoctors.com/resources.aspx.
Patients who are under anesthesia are very vulnerable. A female patient could be sexually abused if she was under anesthesia for hand surgery. It is not just gynecology that you have to worry about. We need to fight for the rights of a family member or personal advocate not employed by the medical facility to be present with patients for surgeries.
Look at some horrible patient modesty violation cases on our web site at http://patientmodesty.org/modesty.aspx.
I read about a case the other day of a male doctor being charged for sexual misconduct after saying to his female patients during pap smears and pelvic exams :” I could do this all day”. Unfortunately there is no link to show you.
What I don’t understand is how some people, male doctors and some women categorically deny that there is anything sexual about these tests when clearly it is sexual for some doctors. IMO the only difference is some doctors just know to shut their mouths while others are obviously really stupid and can’t help showing their enjoyment.
Also on the issue of women preferring female doctors. Male doctors have had a two century heads start on the specialty of obstetrics and gynaecology, yet when females started entering the field women couldn’t flock to them fast enough. It says to me that men must have been doing an abysmal job.
Look at something: If someone where to be sexually attacked, the term is denoting the style of attack (if a husband punches his wife in the face, that’s an attack, too- but if he were to drag her upstairs by the hair that’d be a different kind of attack). The composition of the situation is of that nature with this. The arguments that their was no male anatomical feature involved is irrelevant. It wasn’t the existance of that anatomical feature that was the problem, it was what was done with it that was the problem. I keep saying it: if a doctor where to poison someone with a needle, it’s still murder. It’s called “iatrogenic detriment.”
I figure if this got more commonly brought up as a point whether in conversation or argument there wouldn’t be as much camoflauge to hide behind. Someone that thinks that nothing that comes from a medical source can be harm is crazy. If they decided to give someone a nose job on their own initiative, that would be mutilation. If they were to make getting one thing or another contingent on getting this nose job, that would be an instance of compulsion- however subtle.
Try making this point next time someone says something like that. I don’t know if it’s called “thinking by analogy” or “thinking by association,” but either way- it’s like saying “nothing a priest does is wrong” or that “wearing someone else’s clothes will give you their abilities.”
The male-female dynamic isn’t the only point. Sure, the guy could be getting off on the situation- but that’s potentially true with a woman in that position, too. It doesn’t matter what’s going on on their end, it’s a penetrative interface occuring by someone else’s decision-making. It also doesn’t just happen from being a woman, either- it’s an interjected action. It doesn’t just occur mystically. I always got pissed off when someone would say “that’s just what they do.” They do not self-determine that these will be their actions. They do not engage at will- that was a point that seemed mostly omitted in that Strousburg, PA case where they ambushed all those 11-year-old girls with pelvic exams at school. They molested those children through medicine, and there were actual arguments in support of it!
What can we do to stop this? Why are they allowed to touch me while I am drugged or asleep? Why do this without our permission?
Ruthless, blinding violence is my first pick for the first question. Allowed or not, you’re only dealing with actions- never laws. As for background reasons, I usually just go with plain evil.
An important point is that consent doesn’t come from someone else, anyway. What? Did they pull someone kind of existential “switch- aroo” & substitute somebody? Of course not. What happens is what occurs & them saying something isn’t the same things as that person saying it.
Patients are asked to sign consent forms that would include allowing medical students to observe and do exams. Unless you do not consent to this then it can happen in teaching hospitals. Even if you do not consent it is unlikely that anyone reads your implicit instructions. No one is there to advocate for you unless a gpfamiky member is there all the time
The case of the anesthesiologist who was abusing patients in Toronto. This was wrong and he did get caught but only after a long lomg time. It was because one woman woke up with semen on her face. She did not complain to the hospital but to the police. Evidence was collected. Most of the other victims were told that the medication and surgery made them hallucinate. They were made to believe that nothing really happened.
Most husbands are wary of another male touching the most intimate parts of their wives. Sexual misconduct is rampant and under reported, the male is a biological sexual predator by design, why some women cannot understand this is part of the problem perpetuating these “boundary violations”. More discussion of this please.
First of all: This can always be something imposed by another woman. Whether she’s a lesbian or not, that is an attack.
Second: Males are not “sexual predators” by design. Not all men have a taste for compulsion.
I don’t know what to say first:
I guess the first thing is that something of this nature imposed by another woman is still an attack (it’s just a same-sex attack, just like if a guy goes after another guy in a prison cell). This is whether or not the one doing it is a lesbian or not. Keeping in mind, something doesn’t always need to be motivated by lust of any kind.
Another thing: Not all males are “sexual predators.” A taste for compulsion is NOT intrinsic to the design.
Anonymous was mine, sorry.
Mostly the problem is that women are not discussing it. It is just that most women often do not know to expect it going to be done, have no control or feel they can refuse any part of the pelvic, breast, rectal exam. There should be an official list like a menu that a woman can tick off . Yes to a Pap test, no to vaginal/rectal exam etc. then there should be a recommended time each step should take. The list of questions concerning sexual history and behaviours should be written out and given to a woman to decide if she wants to answer any of them and the risk scoring more for education than epidemiology. More like a test they take for themselves rather than “what information is going on their medical file forever” . They should be given information about what treatment options for abnormals and let them decide if they want any tests at all.
Sexual predators are everywhere. Most men would have sex if they could get away with, consequences are low. Often teenagers and children are victims because they do not know what is going on, that they can with hold consent. They believe that doctors are supposed to be trusted.
Women do not want anyone but there husbad to touch them (most women) . The only reason they might submit to a pelvic or breast exam is when they are coerced or told that they have” to submit to get medication, birth control, insurance coverage or they are told they are going to die of cancer if they refuse. There are not too many women who use a medical exam in place of an affair. It is not to get attention or any sexual gratification ever. The rectal and bimanual exam are often sneak attacks. Hardly anyone asks for that. A woman might ask for a Pap test if she is afraid of getting cancer or she thinks she is “supposed to” or she is having some problem.
Most women would have a self Pap test if possible however this is not available in some countries. What if couples could have a take home HPV information and test kits to use at home?
Some reasons why women do not report misconduct
1. They do not know what is normal when they compare with friends
2. Do not know where or how to report it
3. Do not know what the definition of sexual assault covers consent to pelvic exam
4. because what exactly takes place during that exam is not standardized.
5. Afraid of calling the police. Many women do not report even violent rapes. Depends on culture too.
Moo, I think women are often in shock after a sexual assault and sometimes push the experience to the back of their brain. It’s never mentioned to anyone, they try to pretend it never happened. Some also, fear the system, making a fuss, it would be a stressful thing. Also, some don’t want others to know what happened to them, that seems common with sexual attacks…woman asking, “why me?” Did I encourage it in any way etc.? Victim blaming is still fairly common.
I think these are also, some of the reasons why most women don’t report something “off” in the consult room or a bad experience in hospital.
On some health boards women will say they’re being silly worrying about a breast exam etc. “after all doctors are doing these exam all day long, I’m nothing special”.
Actually you ARE something special…
We’ve had a profession behaving like cowboys and so some/many women have normalized bad conduct. We need to start viewing ourselves as a no-go zone – hands off without our express informed consent.
That’s a point a lot of people make when arguing with someone: “they do that all the time.” And there’s no connection made there? I don’t get how frequency of behavior somehow makes it okay, anyway. If someone kills 100 people, is the next one NOT murder?
Another thing is that it doesn’t really matter if the one doing something gets something out of it or not. The situation being directed at someone is the problem.
Most males have compulsive thoughts, whether they act on them is the difference. The fact that the porn industry is so enormous, 1 in 12 web sites globally is adult contact, speaks to this. There is no equivalent female interest in porn, that tells how men think. I am a decent happily married man of 23 years, but the sight of an attractive women still catches my interest and for a brief moment I am left to the fantasies of the mind to enjoy. I would never act on these impulses but they occur several times a day nonetheless. The literature confirms in countless studies that the male is visually stimulated beyond conscious control. Mother Nature insures this to propagate the species and many thousands of years of evolution have only strengthened this impulse. “Civilized” men are expected to control themselves, and most of us do, it is the naive and vulnerable women who file into the doctor’s office unclothed providing opportunity for misconduct. These days there are plenty of female doctors, this issue should soon be a thing of the past. A published treatise recently reported that two thirds of all men have problems getting their minds to accept another male touching their wives.
Having a “screw-around” urge is different from an urge to back someone into things. Big difference between fidelity & not being an assailant. Visual stimulation is just a difference between men & women (women aren’t AS visual as men are).
Definitely an ulterior motive is possible, but keep in mind that that is true with women as well (she could always be a lesbian or bi). Anyone can have “mommy-issues” or just like causing people problems. Outright malice can very easily be a motivator for a lot of things, not just this. Some compasses point backwards & that applies to people that use their occupation to inflict things on people.