An anonymous essay recently revealed the sexual assault taking place in operating rooms. It talks in detail about the inappropriate behavior that doctors adopt while patients lye unconscious on the operating tables in front of them.
The paper, published earlier this week, on Monday (August 17, 2015), in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, describes the cases of two (2) women who’ve been victims of sexual assault in the operating room, whether they know it or not.
The author explained that he decided to publish these cases because it’s import to speak up and prevent such acts of misogyny from repeating themselves, as well as prevent misconduct from spreading.
The idea for the paper came when the writer of the essay was giving a lecture to senior medical students and asked them if any of them had someone to blame for an unpleasant clinical experience.
One of the students answered that he witnessed a case of misconduct and regretted not standing up to the surgeon. While operating on a patient under general anesthesia, for a vaginal hysterectomy, the surgeon turned to the student after prepping the vaginal area of the patient and told him “I bet she’s enjoying this”, than laughed and winked.
The event had such a strong impact on the young student that even after all this time, he still called the surgeon a “dirtball”. However, he also admitted laughing along at the time. He regretted his actions, but said the he had no idea what else to do at the time.
The essay author then shared with the student his own unpleasant clinical experience. He recalled being a medical student in his third year. He was helping a surgeon deliver a baby (a girl), but after the baby was delivered, her mother started gushing out blood from her vagina.
The resident doctor acted quickly, requested that the patient be put under anesthesia, and started performing what’s known as an internal bimanual uterine massage. He placed his hand inside the woman’s vagina, and pressed his fist against her uterus.
The author recalled that “The guy saved her life”, but added that after the bleeding stopped, the resident doctor said something along the lines of “Atta girl. That’s what I like. A nice, tight uterus”. And the sexual assault did not end there. The doctor then raised his other hand up in the air and began to sing La Cucaracha and shuffle as if he was dancing.
The author admitted that just like the student he had talked to earlier, he also started laughing and singing because he had no idea what else to do at the time. They only stopped after the anesthesiologist started yelling at them.
The essay writer did not say that this type of behavior is common, but he did stress that we need to put an end to it. This is also the reason why Dr. Christine Laine, the Annals of Internal Medicine’s Editor in Chief, made the choice to publish the anonymous paper.
She went on to admit that the decision was a controversial one. Some of her colleagues believed that the scandalous events describe in the essay could damage the reputation of their profession and should be kept secret. Others colleagues believed that this was exactly the reason why they should publish the paper.
The main goal of the essay is to get physicians to talk about these issues and encourage them to report inappropriate behavior when and if they notice it. Dr. Laine gave a statement saying that even if these type of incidents “happen rarely […] that’s too often”.
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