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The Penndulum

Nonconsensual Pap Smears

Hospital patient waiting to be put under anesthesia
Alexandra Roehl
Hospital patient waiting to be put under anesthesia

In the United States, it should be illegal to give a woman a Pap smear while she is under anesthesia without her consent. A Pap smear is a procedure in which a speculum is inserted into the vagina to check for cervical cancer. A professional can perform a Pap smear while the patient is awake or under anesthesia; both require consent. Despite this, it is still legal in 24 states to perform unauthorized pelvic exams. Pennsylvania is the newest state to ban the operation, as the law went into effect on Jan. 19. However, all women in the United States should be protected against unwanted pelvic exams.

Sarah Wright is a victim of a nonconsensual pap smear. In 2009, she had surgery on her abdomen. Yet, when she woke up, the doctors informed her about a vaginal issue, which led her to believe that she was given a pelvic exam without her consent. While some may argue that the doctors are helping to prevent a later issue, it does not justify taking advantage of an unconscious woman.

Sarah is one of many women wronged by medical professionals, and the problem only grows as students enter the medical field. Samantha L. Seybold describes how a “patient may experience multiple consecutive pelvic exams while she is unconscious, depending on how many students need to practice.” Doctors argue that nonconsensual pap smears are essential for students to learn, but Nurse Andrew Jazich says, “A Pap smear is an invasive procedure. Consent should be required.” Rosemary Jazich, a nurse of 42 years, agrees and adds that all of the states should implement laws because “Every woman needs to have control over her healthcare.” Opposingly, former Senator Abrams of Connecticut opposed the Bill prohibiting unauthorized exams, arguing that women do not have to sign a separate consent form for Pap smears if their procedure already outlines one. However, as we have seen from Sarah Wright, abdominal surgery did not indicate also getting a pelvic exam.

The solution is that medical professionals must tell patients what they can expect in a procedure. If students plan on giving a Pap smear on an anesthetized patient, the woman is aware and has the right to refuse. If the remaining states don’t make nonconsensual exams illegal, Americans will lose trust in our healthcare professionals and education system.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pap-smear/about/pac-20394841

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9826341/#:~:text=There%20is%20still%20no%20consensus,remains%20legal%20in%2029%20states.

https://csms.org/media/uploads/sb-16-pelvic-exams-final-020419.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/health/pelvic-medical-exam-unconscious.html

https://apnews.com/article/pelvic-exam-pennsylvania-informed-consent-cf63b2eceac0de1f239558b5ebda45e0

https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/investigations/it-felt-like-a-violation-ohio-does-not-require-consent-for-pelvic-exams-on-unconscious-patients

 

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About the Contributor
Alexandra Roehl, Student Writer
Alexandra Roehl is a senior at Pennridge. She is involved in musical theater, tennis, Key Club, NHS, and Link Crew. Outside of school, she is a hostess at a restaurant. Alex's interests include fashion, watching movies, and hanging out with friends and family. In the future, she plans to attend college and major in Film Production.

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    Ashley KammeyerFeb 14, 2024 at 4:51 am

    This is something that should be known without being said. The trust is lost already. Now I feel incredibly violated and disgusted.

    Reply