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  • Writer's pictureArizona Senate Republicans

Arizona bill to ban pelvic exams on unconscious patients without consent

(story by Claudia Rupcich, ABC 15)

PHOENIX — A proposed new law in Arizona would make it illegal to perform pelvic exams on patients who are under anesthesia and can't consent.

If Senate Bill 1027 passes, Arizona would join 10 other states with similar bans.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate.

"Anything that is not medically necessary for the procedure will be prohibited without consent," said Senator Heather Carter, who is behind the bill.

Sen. Carter said many times, medical students perform pelvic exams on anesthetized patients as part of their training, and the patients have no idea.

A Phoenix woman told ABC15, a few years ago, she went to a local hospital for stomach surgery. When she woke up from the anesthesia, she found out from a resident that they'd done a pelvic exam on her.

"I have been sexually assaulted and I went through a horrible time with that ten years ago, so reliving this, I had to re-enter counseling, I had was having dreams again, reliving the assault, she said.

The woman has been a nurse for a decade and works at the hospital where this happened to her. She wanted to remain anonymous.

"That's not normally a common thing to do to patients under anesthesia, unless there's a severe reason for it," she said.

The surgeon told her they'd done a pap-smear, something this woman knows she didn't need. She said she got access to her records, and there wasn't any documentation of the procedure or who had been in the room. "How many people were in there with my legs stirrup and what were they doing?"

She said it was traumatizing.

Ashley Weitz is also a sexual assault survivor and said she went through a similar experience in an Utah emergency room.

"So many patients that this happens to aren't ever aware, and I am aware. And I know how it feels. I know how awful it feels," she said.

Weitz said she had been sedated, and when the medicine started wearing off, she woke up in the middle of a pelvic exam.

"I remember waking up screaming," said Weitz. "I was confused and I was in a lot of pain."

These women are speaking out so others are aware. They said communication and education for both patients and healthcare providers is essential.

"People can experience harm, even if they think 'oh they were asleep they'd have no idea.' There is harm, things need to be consensual even if it's for medical purposes," said the woman in Phoenix.

"It's something that we would think is completely common sense, but because we've heard these horrific stories, we know that we need a law in place to protect women," said Sen. Carter.

Learn more about the bill here.

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