How would you feel if you woke up from being anaesthetised after a routine surgery to find out that your body had been used to teach a batch of medical students how to conduct pelvic exams?
A new documentary called At Your Cervix is examining the histories and trends in the ways medical students are taught to give pelvic exams, and aims to find non-problematic ways to teach how to give them.
There’s clearly a need to find these non-problematic ways, because this documentary reveals that medical students are taught how to give pelvic exams in deeply horrifying ways. It details how in the US and Canada, students are taught how to give pelvic and breast exams on unconscious female patients who never consented to having their bodies used in this way, and who never find out about it later when they regain consciousness from anaesthesia.
It’s a terrible thing to happen, and is more common than you think. A casual poll undertaken by a Canadian medical student of her acquaintances in the profession revealed that 72 percent of the doctors and medical students polled had done medical exams on unconscious patients without consent. It’s yet another way in which women’s bodies and privacy are abused and used as tools without their consent. It also gets you thinking that a part of how dismissive doctors are of women and their pain could possibly be because they’re taught to be dismissive of women, their agency, and their rights over themselves through practices like this.
The documentary also explores better ways in which medial students can learn to give pelvic exams, which include introducing a culture of consensual self-examination.
This documentary focuses on this practice in the United States, and there are reports of such practices in Canadian hospitals too. We don’t know if this is a practice in Indian hospitals and medical schools, but if you’ve heard of something like this happening in India, do let us know.