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Do patients need a chaperon?

The New York Times, December 6, 2010

The airline passenger who refused to allow a security pat-down made national headlines quickly. The idea of a stranger touching a person’s intimate areas makes most people cringe. But something like this occurs every day in the doctor’s office.

In general, the rule is to have a “chaperon” present to protect patients against possible sexual misconduct, and to make them feel more secure during intimate examinations. The official AMA guidelines state, “From the standpoint of ethics and prudence, the protocol of having chaperons available on a consistent basis for patient examinations is recommended.”

In fact, most institutions mandate that chaperons be present for rectal, pelvic and breast exams. Whether this actually happens is another story.

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