Fiedler, Hanbidge ‘Patient Consent for Pelvic Exams’ bill passes House

HARRISBURG, April 26 – Today, House Bill 507 introduced by state Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., and Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, passed the Pennsylvania House unanimously. The legislation would require medical providers to receive explicit consent from a patient before performing an invasive pelvic or rectal exam on an unconscious patient for medical training purposes.

Right now in Pennsylvania, medical students can legally perform a pelvic or rectal exam on a patient who is under anesthesia for an unrelated procedure. The invasive exam is done solely for medical students’ training purposes and not to ensure the health of the patient. The patient often is entirely unaware of what is being done to her/his body while are under anesthesia.

Fiedler first learned about the practice from a constituent who was disturbed to learn that when she was a patient, a pelvic exam might have been conducted on her. Fiedler shared how her constituent’s experience inspired her to learn more about this practice and ultimately introduce this bill. She also expressed her joy to see this bill pass the House and called on the Senate to get it to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk.

“The more I researched the situation, the more horrified I was,” Fiedler said. “Making sure we have highly trained medical professionals is incredibly important, and at the same time, patients should be asked for their consent ahead of time. This is an important matter of bodily autonomy and of maintaining trust between doctor and patient. I’m very excited to see H.B. 507 pass the House, now we need the Senate to act, so we can get it to the governor’s desk and have it signed into law.”

Rep. Liz Hanbidge said the bill being voted out of the House is an essential step forward in ending what she called an “archaic and unacceptable” practice.

“Making informed, consensual medical decisions in consultation with your physician is a fundamental aspect of good healthcare,” Hanbidge said. “This bill protects patients’ rights and ensures patients have a full and complete understanding of what procedures and exams will take place while they are under anesthesia.”

House Health Committee Chair Dan Frankel said the legislation could help alleviate the stress of uncertainty for patients.

“Patients preparing to receive anesthesia shouldn’t have to worry that they could be subjected to unnecessary, invasive exams as they lay unconscious,” said Frankel, D-Allegheny. “This legislation would give patients peace of mind and allow them to focus on the already stressful experience of getting a medical procedure.”

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape expressed support for H.B. 507.

“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape believes that a person’s bodily autonomy and consent must be paramount, in medical and all other situations,” PCAR said in a statement. “These principles are fundamental to the movement to end sexual violence, and apply to patients receiving intimate medical examinations just as they apply to all individuals in all circumstances, every day of their lives. Nonconsensual physical contact in any context, including medical, can be deeply traumatizing.”

H.B. 507 will move to the Senate, where it awaits a potential vote.