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Lawmakers will try again to pass bills banning pelvic exams without consent in Kansas, Missouri

KSHB I-Team raised awareness in previous reporting
pelvic exam without consent
Posted at 2:22 PM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 19:38:03-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This upcoming legislative session, lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas are trying again to change a medical practice they and advocates say is harmful to patients.

"I can think of no more egregious invasion of privacy than waking up and realizing there had been a pelvic exam done on you without your expressed, informed consent," Kansas Rep. Rui Xu, a Democrat representing the 25th district, said.

The KSHB 41 News I-Team helped raise awareness about this in October, that it's legal in both states for doctors and doctors-in-training to perform a pelvic exam on an anesthetized patient without the patient knowing about it.

"I know that I didn't consent, and I know we didn't talk about it because I woke up in the middle of the exam screaming," Ashley Weitz said in the interview with the I-Team in October.

Weitz said it happened to her more than 10 years ago, when she went to the hospital for nausea, vomiting and a rapid heartbeat. She said she had a conversation with the ER doctor about her history, which she thought wouldn't require the doctor to do such an intimate exam.

"I just wanted to be asked," Weitz said.

These pelvic exams without consent usually done as a teaching tool, to show the doctor-in-training or student how to do an exam properly.

"Thanks to your reporting, I think a number of my colleagues were surprised to learn that patients don't have to consent to these invasive procedures, and thankfully we've continued to be able to find bipartisan support to require consent," Missouri Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat representing District 17, said.

Arthur and Xu filed bills in 2021 and 2020, respectively, to require doctors and students get the patient's consent first. They didn't pass.

They're optimistic they'll pass this year.

"I'll pre-file the bill and then start my conversations with various stakeholders and see if they're willing to finally have a hearing on it," Xu said.

Arthur has already pre-filed her bill, Senate Bill 106.

Her Republican colleague, Rep. Hannah Kelly, also filed a similar bill in the House.

"I believe it's an important step forward in protecting patients' safety while receiving healthcare," Kelly said. 

Arthur said they're likely going to go with the House version because last year, that's the version that made it the farthest.

It's not just Kelly showing support.

"A number of advocacy groups have gotten involved and have made this their priority, so I suspect lawmakers will hear from constituents and from those advocacy groups going into session," Arthur said.

Last year, Xu said it was difficult to get the medical lobbyists on board with his bill but doesn't expect the same pushback this year.

"I think the public conversation, also based on your piece, has changed it a little bit," Xu said.

If the Kansas Medical Society has an issue with the legislature writing healthcare law, Xu says he'd support them handling the issue themselves.

"If the legislative push helps it happen internally, great," Xu said. "But if it has to be done legislatively, I think it's important enough that we do."

Arthur says passing this bill will not only protect patients but also doctors-in-training.

"It would mean my constituents or patients have a better say over what happens to them, that they receive appropriate care and that our future doctors are well-trained, and also don't have to feel bad about things they're asked to do," Arthur said.

The I-Team will follow the progress of these bills and provide updates on what happens this legislative session.