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Student Life

The ethics of intimate examinations: teaching tomorrow's doctors

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:030373
  1. Aneel A Bhangu, fourth year medical student1,
  2. Ed Bayley, fifth year medical student2,
  3. Elizabeth H Frayn, senior house officer in general surgery3
  1. 1Birmingham Medical School
  2. 2University of Nottingham
  3. 3West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance

These are some of the many responses to the paper saying medical students may not get consent for examination under anaesthetic. You can read the full paper and the rest of the responses at

Students need experience

I am a fourth year medical student and have heard about the days when 17 students would line up to examine the vagina of an anaesthetised woman; those days are long gone. Full consent is vital and should be gained wherever possible, or we allow poor practice.

We must be educated, however, and with more and more students this is increasingly difficult. I recently carried out a rectal examination on an anaesthetised man without consent, since the surgeon wanted me to feel his enlarged prostate; I am grateful for this experience and feel I did no harm. In six weeks I have to acquire certain skills, and finding a patient to intimately examine in a hospital saturated with students is hard.

We had to catheterise a model in groups of four owing to too few patients and too many students. If the opportunity arises for me to do an examination at the end of …

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