Chaperones are necessary for female patients

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6984.936b (Published 08 April 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:936
  1. J N Horton
  1. Consultant anaesthetist University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff CF4 4XW

    EDITOR,—John Mitchell's account of the anaesthetist who was found guilty of serious professional misconduct after, in good faith, administering a diclofenac suppository to an anaesthetised female patient without having informed her of his intention raises several issues.1 Some of these are dealt with in the two commentaries on the case, but one that receives only passing mention is important. This is the need for a chaperone when an anaesthetic is being given to a female patient by a male doctor.

    In my hospital the theatre nurse manager clearly thinks that I am being unnecessarily fussy in insisting on having a female member of staff in the anaesthetic room and claims that few of my colleagues require a chaperone. But, as John N Lunn points out in his commentary, procedures such as the application of electrocardiographic electrodes to the chest of a premedicated patient may place the anaesthetist (and, for that matter, a male assistant) at the same risk as the anaesthetist in the case reported by Mitchell. This may be compounded by the erotic confusion that has been reported with the use of some anaesthetic induction agents.2

    I believe that a female member of staff should be present for the whole time a female patient is in the anaesthetic room if otherwise only male staff would be attending to the patient. Whether the reverse applies (for a male patient and female staff) is a matter for debate.


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