Last month, I noted a lawsuit against Valencia College in Florida. The lawsuit had been filed by students who claimed that they were threatened with lowered grades or dismissal if they did not allow themselves to be subjected to transvaginal probes as part of the student training experience.
Last week, the New York Times had an editorial on student privacy inspired by the case. The editorial says, in part:
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, which accredits medical sonography programs, has no specific policy on transvaginal ultrasounds performed on students and does not have data on how many sonography programs engage in this practice. It requires that sonography programs “ensure voluntary and prudent use of students or other human subjects for nonclinical scanning,” and that students be allowed to opt out without any grade penalty.
Since Valencia college denies that there was any problem with their program, perhaps it’s time for the Commission to have a specific policy that gives students the right to opt-out of being a subject/guinea pig in examinations of genital areas – without any penalty in grades. In fact, I think a policy with a blanket prohibition on peer examination of genitals is probably the wisest. While examination of live subjects (as opposed to mannequins) offers students the opportunity to learn how to address issues of modesty or embarrassment in patients, requiring the students to experience an examination by peers adds another factor that is both unnecessary and avoidable.