Internal examinations on anaesthetised women without consent. Does it still go on?

James Bond
2 min readAug 27, 2019

I saw the above video (1) on youtube and I am horrified that this practice still goes on.

When I was a 4th-year medical student I had an attachment at the Jessop Hospital for women in Sheffield UK. It was one of the hospitals which the University of Sheffield used for undergraduate training of medical students.

As part of our training, we had to internally examine a number of anaesthetised women under anaesthetic and be signed up as being competent to do it.

We’d be expected to see a patient, taking a full history, examine her, present to the medical team looking after the patient. We’d explain that we were learning and we’d have to perform such examinations. The patients were normally OK with us performing such examinations.

Sometimes the junior doctors would ask the patient and document it in the medical notes but I went one step further. Under the advice of one of the senior consultants I got a medical consent form, get it signed and put it in the medical notes.

On the final day of the attachment, the consultant came up to me and gave me a real going over for this. One of the other staff came up to me afterwards and suggested I speak to the student union. He said that the registrar was well known for stirring. He said that this consultant was well known for being prejudiced against anyone who wasn’t white, middle class and male.

Anyway some months later there were rumours flying around saying that he was getting sued because he had got me to perform internal examinations on anaesthetised women without consent.

I then wrote to him about this and in response, I got one of the stupidest letters I have received.

“I have no knowledge whatsoever of any patient taking legal action against me because a medical student examined her. However, it is nice to know you obtained consent (which in my opinion in any case is not necessary.) (2.)

That is one of the stupidest letters I have ever received and trust me I have received some stupid ones.

My own view is simple. just show the patient the common courtesy and ask her. If you explain that students need to learn they will rarely, if ever, say no.


  1. Med schools have students practice pelvic exams on unconsenting, anaesthetized women
  2. Letter Mr. A. Johnson 2 December 1996