Nonconsensual pelvic exams officially banned

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(The Center Square) – Health care providers in Pennsylvania who oversee nonconsensual pelvic exams on sedated patients as part of clinical training programs will face penalties under a new state law.

Act 31, signed by the governor on Tuesday, fines practitioners $1,000 if a medical student performs a pelvic, rectal or prostate exam without a patient’s specific informed consent.

The Legislature unanimously approved the legislation earlier this month. Prime sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, said the law bolsters a nationwide effort to “stand up for reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.”

“It’s never been more important to empower patients to make decisions about their own bodies and lives,” she said.

More than 20 states ban nonconsensual pelvic exams, though Fielder said she didn’t know Pennsylvania wasn’t among them until constituent named Keren Sofer – who was examined without her permission – brought it to her attention.

Sofer said it was “shocking” that the practice, though widely condemned by professional medical associations, was still occurring. Requiring consent, she added, protects patients, doctors and medical students alike.

“Secrecy, lack of transparency and the subsequent justification for it should never be a part of a person’s medical care,” Sofer said. “Requiring explicit consent is a commonsense step that will ensure that patients like me feel respected and empowered in their health care decisions.”

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