Ethics & law
Asked to carry out an intimate examination without consent
Marika Davies, a medicolegal adviser, gives advice on some common ethical dilemmas faced by medical students
You were put in a difficult position by your registrar and were right to point out that consent to do the examination had not been obtained.
Medical students have to learn how to carry out intimate examinations, and doing so on an anaesthetised patient can be an ideal opportunity to do so in a way that avoids embarrassment and discomfort for the patient. But patients have the right to choose whether or not to take part in educational activities, even if they are in a teaching hospital or have been told ahead of time that medical students may be present during their care.
The General Medical Council says, “Patients must give informed consent to any activity. This includes participating in teaching or research, as well as any activity undertaken by a medical student.”1 The consent of a patient to take part in educational activities follows the same principle as that