(WOMENSENEWS)–Medical schools are performing pelvic exams on unconscious women without explicit consent, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal cited three recent studies published in medical journals that showed medical students often did not have specific consent to perform pelvic exams on unconscious patients or did not know whether consent had been obtained.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that found that 90 percent of students performed exams on unconscious women.

“It’s highly unlikely students gained consent in those cases,” study co-author Ari Silver-Isenstadt told the Wall Street Journal.

The same study found that only 17 percent of the students said that receiving consent before performing a pelvic exam on an anesthetized woman was “important.”

Many hospital consider consent to be given if a patient signs a form allowing “individuals selected and deemed qualified” to perform “services.” Patients are not told whether services or procedures will be directly related to their care or solely for learning purposes, the Journal reported.

Critics of such vague consent forms say personal and invasive procedures such as pelvic exams should require explicit consent from patients, especially when such exams have no direct benefit to their care.

In response to the studies, some medical schools are now examining their consent procedures or adopting programs in which practice pelvic exams are conducted on paid volunteers.

For more information:

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology–
“Don’t ask, don’t tell: A change in medical student attitudes after obstetrics/gynecology clerkships toward seeking consent for pelvic examinations on an anesthetized patient”