Healthcare consumers in the United States are routinely encountering discriminatory and/or substandard care. Your quality of care depends solely upon the personal biases, ethics, and compassion of your medical provider and because of this, how healthcare is delivered can be downright dangerous to the patient.
Fifty years ago, it was mostly women and minorities on the receiving end of poor healthcare services. However, times have rapidly changed and now medical harm is likely to happen to anyone of any race, sex, religion, etc. Most people are unaware of how easily they can become a victim of medical harm.
With the rise of feminism in the 1970’s, how healthcare is delivered and treatments have greatly improved for women. On an average, women live about six years longer than men and men’s state of health in their last years is generally worse than women’s. There are four widows for every one widower. Out of 50 states, 39 have an agency for women’s health; only 6 have one for men’s health.
Add to the above that over 90% of nurses are female and that overall; over 80% of healthcare workers are female. The flipside to this is the majority of surgeons are still male but efforts are in place to attract more females to surgical fields or specialized fields such as cardiology. In today’s medical world, many of the hospital workers are young people attracted to the field because of the money, benefits, and work schedules.
When women seek intimate care, they have choices. They may choose from a pool of ob/gyns that now is made up of over 85% female doctors. In addition, the office and nursing staff are also overwhelming made up of females. For females seeking ultrasounds or mammograms, the techs will most likely be female as hospitals rarely employ male for these positions. Having said this, brings to mind a really perplexing question: “Why if most of the hospital staff is female, are so many female patients being given male techs for procedures that involve intimate exposure?” The other more serious issue i why are there so many female patients still be sexually assaulted during medical encounters along with why does it take 100s and 100s of victims for these crimes to be investigated?
For males, it is a different story. Although urologists are mostly males (although recently that is an area where females are migrating to); their office staff, nurses, and techs are generally female. For prostate or testicle ultrasounds, the technicians will usually be female. Male patients generally have no hope of getting intimate care from male hospital or office staff.
It is the right of a patient to ask for same gender care but the hospital may not comply. There are stories of patients (both male and female) asking for same gender care for elective procedures and the hospital agrees only to found out later the hospital lied. It is devastating for those patients. There are harrowing stories on www.patientmodesty.org about this very thing. While a patient may be fine with the physician being of the opposite sex, many are not comfortable with support staff being of opposite sex. One reason is you select your doctor/surgeon but support staff are strangers selected for you.
During most x-rays and ultrasounds, patients are conscious. However, during the pre-op and post-op phases of procedures, patients are sedated or outright drugged unconsciousness and are therefore unable to defend themselves. This is the time when they will most likely be intimately exposed for longer periods of time not to mention unnecessarily exposed. When a patient is sedated or unconscious is the time when most sexually inappropriate behavior will occur. Predatory medical providers know this is when patients are at their vulnerable and they will take full advantage of it. Many of the drugs used during these times have properties of memory erasing, submissiveness, and making the patient uninhibited which helps them to accomplish their goal of sexually assaulting/abusing. It is also during this time that many of the newspaper stories of pictures of patients being taken happens. Many medical providers have their private cell phones on them and thus are able to talk pictures of patient’s naked bodies if they so desire. There have been stories of surgeons who take pictures for entertainment purposes as well as nurses doing the same.
While most of the public will acknowledge that sexual abuse of female patients by male doctors and nurses happen, few will acknowledge that sexual abuse of male patients by female doctors and nurses happen. However, female sexual abuse of male patients does happen and probably happens more frequently than we can imagine. One reason is patients may be sedated/unconscious when the assault happens. Another reason is most men will not talk about for fear of not being believed or a feeling of shame. Nurses have even more alone time with patients so it is not hard to see how sexual abuse can happen especially since there is plenty of opportunity.
Although many patients want same gender care, I also want unnecessary exposure of patients to stop no matter if they are of the same gender. In today’s world where sexuality and gender seem to change from hour to hour or however, you cannot count on same sex care to keep you safe. Also, in today’s world of teaching hate as in blaming men (especially older men) for all the bad things in life, you can no longer believe that a medical provider’s personal hate/bias will remain dormant and that they will not harm you.
It has become very apparent from all I have talked to over the years, the medical community as a whole (not all) has come to believe that a patient’s right to bodily privacy does not matter. So very many of them believe patients lose the right to privacy when they walk through the facility doors. This is so false and so dangerous. Patients have been conditioned to believe medical providers have the right to expose your body unnecessarily. This is not true. Many times during the prep for a procedure, care after a procedure or any other number of medical interventions, a patient’s genitals do not need to be exposed but are because it is more convenient to the staff or they simply do not care enough about you as a person to show respect for your bodily privacy. In part, it is these types of behaviors that lead to patients being so easily sexually assaulted. And make no mistake, unnecessary exposure of your genitals is sexual abuse/assault as it does not benefit you but solely is for the benefit of the medical provider(s) who do it. It is also them showing they have power and control (sexual) over a patient which is part of the definition of sexual assault. Medical providers also believe since the patient is either unconscious or drugged so they won’t remember (although you suffer through what happens in real time), how they treat you during these times do not matter. This is so untrue. I know of so very many people who have been traumatized because they do remember. It is sexual assault.
They are not taught to disrespect a patient’s dignity. Perhaps it is learned behavior or perhaps it is just something they desire to do. There are steps they can take to keep minimize exposure or to keep it from happening at all. There are also medical grade garments whose sole purpose is to safely cover a patient’s genitals (meaning these garments are sterile). Why aren’t patients kept covered should be the question we ask and the question we demand an answer from them. They will give you a host of excuses but none of them are valid.
The medical society fights back on this by labeling those who demand bodily privacy/dignity as having a mental health issue. The medical world generally calls wanting bodily dignity a modesty hang-up. They said it is a flaw in the patient rather than the right of all patients to have bodily privacy/respect. I wear blouses that do not show my cleavage because I am modest. However, I demand bodily privacy/respect because I am a human being and I will have final say in who sees or touches my body. The medical society needs to come to terms with they do not own a patient’s body and they do not get to define what constitutes bodily respect.