Ohio Bill Would Ban Practice of Performing Intimate Exams On Anesthetized Patients Without Prior Consent

May 2, 2023Legal Alerts

Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill – House Bill 89 – that would bar medical, nursing, and other medical-professional students from performing pelvic, prostate, or rectal exams on anesthetized or otherwise unconscious patients without prior approval.[1] Intimate exams are used in clinical rotations as an opportunity for training, but opposition to the practice involving unconscious and uninformed patients has grown in recent years. Recently, the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics affirmed earlier guidance for situations in which students should perform a pelvic examination. These include when the patient provided express consent and recognizes the student is part of their care team, when the examination is clinically relevant, and when an educator directly supervises the examination.[2]

The State Medical Board of Ohio (the “Board”) has indicated that the bill mirrors their position that informed consent should be obtained prior to conducting intimate exams and is in line with a previous legislation that the Board supported on the topic.[3] Representatives of the Ohio State Medical Association have stated that the practice of non-consensual intimate exams on anesthetized patients is not a common practice in Ohio and any instances should be reported to the appropriate licensing board.[4] Under the bill, any provider or professional student who conducts a non-consensual intimate exam may be subject to investigation and punishment by the appropriate licensing board. If passed, Ohio would join 21 other states who already ban the practice.

The full text of Ohio House Bill 89 can be found on the House’s website, available here. If you have any questions related to the bill, please contact your Dinsmore healthcare attorney. We will continue to provide updates as the bill progresses through the legislature.

[1] Ohio H.B. 89, 135th General Assembly (2023).

[2] Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Consent for the Pelvic Examination Under Anesthesia by Medical Students (2019).

[3] Jennifer Smola Shaffer, Preying on Patients: One Bill Introduced, Another on the Way to Better Protect Ohioans, The Columbus Dispatch (March 17, 2023).

[4] Id.