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Feds tell teaching hospitals to get consent before invasive procedures

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A top federal official sent a letter Monday to medical schools and teaching hospitals telling them to get consent from patients before invasive medical procedures.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent new guidance to schools to provide clarity to medical providers performing sensitive examinations, particularly on patients under anesthesia.

“The Department is aware of media reports as well as medical and scientific literature highlighting instances where, as part of medical students’ courses of study and training, patients have been subjected to sensitive and intimate examinations – including pelvic, breast, prostate, or rectal examinations – while under anesthesia without proper informed consent being obtained prior to the examination,” Becerra wrote in the letter.

He said hospitals must set clear guidelines.

“It is critically important that hospitals set clear guidelines to ensure providers and trainees performing these examinations first obtain and document informed consent from patients before performing sensitive examinations in all circumstances,” according to the letter.

He added: “While we recognize that medical training on patients is an important aspect of medical education, this guidance aligns with the standard of care of many major medical organizations, as well as state laws that have enacted explicit protections as well. Informed consent is the law and essential to maintaining trust in the patient-provider relationship and respecting patients’ autonomy. We welcome the opportunity to work with providers to promote compliance with existing federal laws and plan to hold a webinar regarding this requirement soon.”