Advocacy and Health Policy |
ACOG Statement on New Florida Law Requiring Written Consent for Pelvic Examinations
Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, FL – The following is a statement from Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG, chief executive officer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Guy I. Benrubi, MD, FACOG, chair of ACOG District XII:
“Government serves a valuable role in the protection of public health and safety and the provision of essential health services. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports this proper role of government. Laws that veer from these functions and unduly interfere with patient–physician relationships are not appropriate. Absent a substantial public health justification, government should not interfere with individual patient–physician encounters. The patient–physician relationship is essential to the provision of safe and quality medical care and should be protected from unnecessary governmental intrusion.
“Doctors and patients weigh a variety of factors when making joint care decisions. A patient’s medical needs, history, symptoms, and personal values and preferences are all part of shared decision-making. When legislators dictate specific medical practices, it represents a gross intrusion in the patient–physician relationship.
“On June 18, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that imposes burdensome requirements on women’s health care through requiring written consent for any pelvic examination, whether it be done in a hospital setting, physician’s office, by a nurse practitioner, or otherwise. This law takes effect on July 1, 2020. While the goal of this bill was initially to protect patients in certain training contexts, the legislation was amended to contain broad-sweeping language that means that in Florida any health care practitioner is prohibited from providing any pelvic examination on a patient—a common, medically appropriate procedure—without the written consent of the patient.
“All too often, legislators single out women’s health for regulations and mandates. This is not only another specific example but could set a dangerous a precedent for further efforts to single out women’s health, particularly their sexual health.
“The ethical principle of informed consent requires a process defined by individualized conversations based on individual patients’ needs. Patient autonomy and informed consent cannot be realized by a state-mandated form or scripted conversation. Rather, it is achieved through mutual sharing of information and individualized conversations between health care professionals and their patients based on each patient’s unique needs. This fundamental principle guides our practices.
“While this legislation may have been well intended in its original form, it was changed very late in the legislative session to broaden the original intended scope. The actual impact will be to interfere in the patient–physician relationship and to hold women’s health care to a different standard than other care. ACOG opposes this intrusion in the patient–physician relationship and will be working with other allied groups who are impacted by this new law to repeal this requirement.”