April 9, 2024

Lawmaker wants to make new guidance on informed consent for certain exams under anesthesia state law

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The guidance targets teaching hospitals and medical schools. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the informed consent requirement means patients must be aware of any sensitive examinations done for teaching purposes and have the right to refuse those examinations. - Abigail Ruhman / IPB News

The guidance targets teaching hospitals and medical schools. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the informed consent requirement means patients must be aware of any sensitive examinations done for teaching purposes and have the right to refuse those examinations.

Abigail Ruhman / IPB News

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released guidance requiring informed consent for pelvic, breast, prostate or rectal exams under anesthesia.

Because Medicare funding can be tied to compliance, most hospitals are likely to follow it. However, one lawmaker is still pushing to add the informed consent requirements to state law.

The guidance targets teaching hospitals and medical schools. HHS said the informed consent requirement means patients must be aware of any sensitive examinations done for teaching purposes and have the right to refuse those examinations.

Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond) has proposed legislation the past four years that would require informed consent from patients, but the legislation has not received a committee hearing. She said even with the new guidance, legislation that outright bans the practice of non-consensual, sensitive examinations under anesthesia would be in the best interest of patients.

“This will help reassure them that their issues and that their problems are going to [be] taken care of and their privacy will be respected.”

Jackson said requiring informed consent for these types of exams would give patients in Indiana more trust in their providers.

“Your body is your body,” Jackson said. “And if a doctor wants to do an exam on you, let them get permission from you.”

Dr. Julie Tillman is an OB-GYN and vice chair of the Indiana American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She said many providers do ask for consent for these procedures, and requiring it would address providers who may not have the patient’s best interest at heart.

“It's really important for patients to understand, ‘Yes, there is a student involved, but this is exactly what the student will be participating in,’” Tillman said.

ACOG has advocated for patients to have informed consent for sensitive exams for more than a decade, according to Tillman. She said putting the language into law would protect patients and empower them to speak up when they don’t feel comfortable with students doing these types of exams.
 

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Tillman said patients often seek out teaching hospitals or medical schools for care because they see a value in having multiple people paying attention to their care.

“But by virtue of going to a health care system where there are learners around, that should never be implied as consent from a patient to have things done to them, such as pelvic exams under anesthesia without their specific consent,” Tillman said.

Tillman said that consent needs to be given before procedures, and before the patient has been given any medications that may impact decision making.

Jackson said she plans to reintroduce legislation next session that requires informed consent for these procedures.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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