Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Pa. law will require consent before exams on anesthetized patients

A doctor prepares for a surgical procedure.
Molly Riley
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 28, 2016 file photo, a doctor prepares for a surgical procedure at a hospital in Washington.

In Pennsylvania, medical students can perform exams on unconscious patients without their permission, but that’s changing under legislation passed in the General Assembly in November.

Under the new rules, medical providers will have to get specific, written permission from patients before performing the exams.

Right now, that’s not the case. As part of their training, medical students in Pennsylvania can perform pelvic, prostate or rectal exams on anesthetized patients.

“Such an unauthorized invasion of bodily autonomy can be incredibly traumatizing for both patients and medical students,” said state Sen. Maria Collett, one of the bill’s sponsors, who is also a nurse.

Collett said while it's critical for health care workers to learn how to give care on actual patients — not just in labs — patient consent is critical, too.

“But that training should never come at the expense of a patient's opportunity to provide consent to such treatment," Collett said.

The practice does not happen at all medical colleges in Pennsylvania. But now the state will join a growing number requiring patient consent ahead of medical exams on an unconscious patient.

The legislation was sent on Nov. 16 to Gov. Shapiro, who is expected to sign it.

Copyright 2023 WPSU. To see more, visit WPSU.

Anne Danahy is a reporter at WPSU. She was a reporter for nearly 12 years at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a number of awards for her coverage of issues including the impact of natural gas development on communities.