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Can my husband be with me during a medical examination?

Q: I recently had a small biopsy of the wrist done under general anaesthesia. Just before the operation (in the OT) the male doctor (who was an orthopaedic surgeon) examined my breasts. I was naked in front of him. I insisted on calling my husband before he did the examination but he said that the OT rules did not allow that. Is breast screening is necessary before a wrist biopsy. I just have a small swelling of soft tissue from the dorsum of my right wrist. Please give an explanation? I was told to remove all my clothes including undergarments and wear a gown, which was quite open. Please tell me if compromising ones privacy is necessary for a small surgery?

A:Any examination of the breasts, abdomen, pubic region, vagina, uterus or rectum of a patient can only be carried out after explaining the need for such examination and obtaining the consent of the patient. The patient has every right to demand the presence of a close relative such as the husband or a nurse when such an examination is being carried out by a male doctor. It appears that the rationale for examination of the breast was not explained. It is also not clear why the doctor did not find such an examination necessary in the ward or the clinic and thought of it only in the operation theatre just before surgery. The practice described appears to be objectionable and demands explanation from the doctor and the administration of the hospital. Clothing in the operation theatre varies from institution to institution. The general principle is clothing must be loose fitting such that it can easily be removed in case emergency resuscitation is required. Despite all care, patients do infrequently collapse even during relatively minor operations. It is then necessary to infuse fluids and drugs and carry out other measures to restore normalcy. Tight-fitting, buttoned-up clothes can hinder such emergency measures and may result in incalculable harm to the patient.

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