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Florida Medical Board Considers New Pelvic Exam Law

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Florida Board of Medicine has agreed to weigh in on whether a new state law aimed at protecting patients from unwanted pelvic exams applies to male patients and examinations in which body parts are viewed but not touched.

The board, which regulates physicians, will consider at its Friday meeting a petition for a declaratory statement on the new law, which was sparked by reports of women being subjected to exams while they were under anesthesia.

The petition for a declaratory statement was filed by the Florida Medical Association, physician Doug Murphy, the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians and the Florida Society of Dermatologists and Dermatologic Surgeons.

The law, passed during this year’s legislative session, prohibits practitioners and medical students from performing pelvic examinations without written consent from patients or the patients’ guardians. The law includes exceptions in cases where examinations are necessary to avoid substantial and irreversible permanent impairment of major bodily functions or if examinations are court ordered.

Florida Medical Association General Counsel Jeff Scott said that by the medical community’s standards, pelvic exams are performed on female patients as part of regular checkups or if patients are experiencing unusual vaginal discharges or pelvic pain.

During pelvic exams, Scott said, the vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, rectum and pelvis are examined for any abnormalities. But the law has a broader definition because it’s not limited to women. It includes in pelvic examinations external pelvic tissue or organs.

The Florida Medical Association asked Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees for guidance on the new law, Scott said, but turned to the Board of Medicine after it didn’t hear back from the state health department.