Intended for healthcare professionals


Intimate examinations and other ethical challenges in medical education

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 11 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:62

Medical schools should develop effective guidelines and implement them

  1. Peter A Singer, Sun Life financial chair and director (
  1. University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, 88 College St, Toronto, Canada M5G-1L4

    Education and debate p 97

    In this issue, Coldicott et al report an exploratory survey that shows, among other findings, that up to a quarter of intimate examinations in anaesthetised or sedated patients seem not to have had adequate consent from patients (p 97).1 This paper will generate a firestorm of controversy, wide media interest, and perhaps even calls for a public inquiry. Through the controversy, let us keep one point uppermost in mind: identifying the problem is only half the battle—the other half is coming up with an effective solution.

    The fact that this report has been published at all represents a triumph of academic freedom. In particular, Coldicott, a medical student, deserves high praise for seeing this controversial study through to publication. The medical school examined in the study is probably not the only medical school in the world with similar practices, and the …

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