Fighting For Justice For Abuse Victims Statewide

Appropriate conduct: The do’s and don’ts in medical examinations

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | Sexual Abuse

A clear understanding of boundaries is necessary in medical examinations. This is particularly important during examinations of private body parts. Some actions are appropriate and crucial for safety and comfort. Conversely, there are some that border on harassment. Harassment occurs when examiners violate these boundaries.

Many aspects of an assessment are acceptable due to their nature. However, certain behaviors may show an examiner has crossed the line into unprofessional conduct.

What’s appropriate during private examinations

When undergoing medical examinations of private body parts, communication is important. It’s essential to establish a trusting environment. This is so patients can comfortably voice any concerns or discomfort. For example, examiners should clearly explain each procedure and its purpose. Plus, examiners should only need to undress the parts of the body that they are examining. Actions by the examiner that are rooted in respect and consideration help foster an environment of trust within the patient-examiner relationship.

Inappropriate conduct during the examination

Unfortunately, not all examiners uphold professionalism throughout the examination. Some cross the line into inappropriate behavior. Examples of such behavior, which can border on sexual abuse, include:

  • Ignoring patient concerns, refusing to answer questions or silencing them
  • Skipping safety protocols, such as not wearing gloves during an exam
  • Failing to explain their actions or how touching certain body parts is necessary
  • Denying a patient’s request to have a support person present during the exam
  • Undressing parts of the body that are not relevant to the examination
  • Asking invasive or unnecessary personal questions

Such actions breach both professional standards and patient trust. Given this, the California Medical Board deems this behavior unprofessional, warranting disciplinary measures. These may include license suspension or revocation, fines, or required educational courses. Patients subjected to inappropriate touch have options. They have the right to seek legal recourse with the help of an attorney.