It might sound like common sense, but France is set to put an end to the practice of doctors and their students carrying out rectal and vaginal examinations on patients who haven't expressly given their permission.
The reason? It was revealed that some doctors have been using patients under general anesthetic as teaching tools for their students.
While doctors claimed it was simply medical teaching, others were outraged that male and female patients hadn't given their permission.
Among the most vocal were a group of fifty doctors, feminists, and social workers, who wrote an open letter to the French government in February demanding a change to the system.
The group noted that medical directors had been quoted as saying they didn't ask for permission because patients “might say no”, or even that it was “preferable” that the patients “don't remember that people unknown to them have 'had a look'”.
Women's rights group Osez Le Féminisme said the examinations met the legal definition of rape in that they were “An act of sexual penetration committed on another, either by violence, restraint, threat or surprise”.
One former student doctor told L'Express that she remembered carrying out gynocology exams on unconscious patients at a Paris clinic.
“Before the operation, we were told we could make a vaginal examination when the patient was asleep. We all took turns without asking any questions,” she said.
In response to the revelations, Health Minister Marisol Touraine asked for an official report to be carried out by teaching hospital medical deans, who came back with troubling figures.
They said no patient consent had been obtained for for one in three pelvic examinations by first-year students, or one in five such procedures carried out by more experienced students.
Touraine said the report was “very worrying” and “condemned with the utmost firmness these illegal practices”.
“The state will be extremely firm against these unacceptable practices which undermine the integrity of the human body and the human rights of patients,” she said in a statement.
The minister added that new measures would be taken to ensure no one in France would be examined by third parties if they hadn't given prior permission.