Editorials

Chaperones for genital examination

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7203.137 (Published 17 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:137

Provide comfort and support for the patient and protection for the doctor

  1. C J Bignell, Consultant physician
  1. Department of Genitourinary Medicine, City Hospital, Nottingham NG5 1PB

    Papers p 159

    Never, sometimes, or always characterise the wide variation in individual doctors' practice of using chaperones during genital and rectal examination. This variation is not confined to general practice.1 In this week's issue Torrance et al report a survey of chaperone policy in genitourinary medicine clinics (p 159).2 Some clinics would appear to allow male doctors to examine female patients without the presence or offer of a chaperone. Such practice is surely beyond justification.

    Some may argue that the use of chaperones is an area where physician discretion is more relevant than policy. Certainly not all patients choose to have a chaperone present during intimate examinations, and it may be difficult to provide chaperones in some settings. However, in this area of quality and clinical risk guidelines rather than discretion need to dictate practice.

    What considerations should direct the use of chaperones? Several studies have sought patient preferences in primary and secondary healthcare settings,37 although not in genitourinary medicine. The …

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