Utah among many states to pass legislation creating explicit care law

This legislative session, Utah was among many states that sought to create increased accountability and transparency with explicit consent laws.


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Senate Bill 188 bans pelvic exams on patients who are under anesthesia, or who have not knowingly given consent for the procedure. The law is a result of a revelation by the bill sponsor, Rep. Kim Coleman, who stated in an interview with Deseret News, that she became aware of the fact that conducting pelvic exams during other procedures is common practice in the state. Other times the consent form is buried among other intake forms.

This information became public knowledge after a number of students at various hospitals questioned the practice.

This form of practice is most common in teaching hospitals according to Phoebe Friesen, a postdoctoral fellow in ethics at the University of Oxford. A fellow student brought the issue to her attention after being asked to complete the procedure on a patient who came in for an unrelated procedure. These pelvic exams are seen as an opportunity for training, and happen in Utah often.

Following the publication of this knowledge, Utah began to draft legislation to put a stop to this practice.

The bill requires that pelvic exam consent forms be in large font and on a separate sheet of paper in order for the procedure to be performed while under anesthesia. This would add transparency to the process, and applies both to men and women to encompass exams conducted in the same region as the pelvis.

During the House amendment phase of the bill’s consideration, an amendment was added that allowed physicians to conduct a pelvic exam without consent if the patient arrives at the health care facility and is unresponsive.

The amendment, along with the bill itself, received support from both chambers under the notion that the bill sets a precedent that the best type of care that a patient can receive is honest and complete information from their provider.

“The best thing that any health care provider can give to his or her patients is full and honest information … if there’s a medical need then there’s no reason why informed consent should not be given and received from the patient,” Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost said during public testimony of the bill.

The bill was sent to the governor for signing in late March, setting a precedent for other states to follow Utah’s lead. Recently, New York and Maryland have introduced legislation with similar explicit consent laws. These bills are also expected to be signed into law.