It could have happened to you but you might not even know it.

Unbeknownst to most of us, medical students for years have been brought into New Jersey hospitals to conduct invasive examinations on unconscious patients without their consent or knowledge, but that’s not happening any longer.

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Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, has been signed into law that prohibits gynecologic, rectal or other exams if a patient is out cold and hasn’t given permission for this kind of procedure to take place.

They're doing what?

“I mean we’re talking about pelvic exams, invasive touching of a human body when the person is unconscious and has not consented to having multiple people use them as a human prop,” he said.

He said medical school students have given testimony admitting “they’ve been asked to practice things like pelvic exams on patients when they’re unconscious, and that’s unconscionable, and shouldn’t be allowed.”

Med students feel funny

Moriarty said he was once told by a medical student “I was asked to do a pelvic exam after the presiding doctor had already done that and then asked me to do that as well as a teaching aid, and I just felt very uncomfortable.”

He said the new law specifies “if someone is going to be poking and prodding you other than the doctor that you expect to be doing the procedure, that you have to consent to that beforehand unless it’s an emergency.”

Moriarty stressed, “I don’t believe that anyone that’s unconscious wants to be used as a human prop for medical students to poke and prod them and practice their skills, I think that’s wrong and shouldn’t be allowed and thankfully this bill now prohibits that.”

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Some people might not mind

He also noted, “some people might want to consent to allowing students to do this in a limited capacity, because obviously medical students do need to learn, there are some places that actually hire people to come in, and pay them to let medical students poke and prod them and do exams, but nobody should have to undergo this if they’re not even conscious or aware of what is happening.”

Under the new law, A-1489 and S-1771, health care practitioners will be required to obtain informed consent prior to performing any inspection of a patient’s reproductive organs, breasts or rectum if anyone other than the doctor will be involved in the exam. The law’s consent requirements do not apply to circumstances in which the practitioner must conduct an invasive exam in order to provide necessary emergency care.

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