Some medical schools instruct students to practice pelvic exams on female patients who are under anesthesia for surgery. Though most patients are under anesthesia for a gynecological surgery, others may be in the hospital for an unrelated procedure.
In some cases, a pelvic exam may be deemed medically necessary for the patient. But in other cases the exam may be simply for the educational benefit of the medical student.
Some patients who discovered they were given a pelvic exam by a student while under anesthesia have said they were not informed that an exam would occur and did not consent to the procedure. Patients with histories of sexual trauma or abuse have said they found the procedure particularly distressing.
Laws in 10 states require informed consent for pelvic exams. Four of those states passed their laws just last year.