Colorado embraces broad law requiring patient consent for pelvic exams while sedated

May 25, 2023, 10:19 AM

FILE - A lone cyclist passes by Colorado's State Capitol building, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Denver...

FILE - A lone cyclist passes by Colorado's State Capitol building, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Denver. Colorado passed a law Thursday, May 25, 2023, requiring that patients give informed consent for medical students to perform pelvic exams on them while they are unconscious. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado medical providers will need to get patients’ prior consent before medical students can perform pelvic exams on them while they are unconscious for a procedure under a bill signed into law Thursday.

In signing off on the law in her capacity as acting governor, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera put Colorado with at least 20 other states that have consent laws on the books. But Colorado’s goes far beyond other states’ because it requires that the medical students be named ahead of time and meet the patient — a step one bioethicist is concerned might impede students’ chances to learn.

Proponents of the law, which had bipartisan support, say every aspect protects patients from feeling violated and, in certain cases, retraumatized after surviving sexual assault. They hope it will set the standard for states that have weaker consent laws or none at all.

“Learning of a non-consensual intimate exam is traumatic, forcing patients to relive some of the worst moments of their life. We’re putting an end to this unethical practice,” Democratic state Rep. Lorena Garcia, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The goal is to ensure that a patient is fully aware of, and agrees to, having students replicate breast, pelvic, prostate or rectal exams that can involve the insertion of fingers or devices inside someone’s vagina or anus.

It’s difficult to quantify how often students perform such exams without informed consent, in part because patients might never know that they were practiced on and students might be afraid to raise concerns to their superiors.

Typically, patients fill out a number of forms giving broad consent for procedures that might be medically necessary while they are sedated, including for students to participate in their care.

For such procedures to take place under Colorado’s new law, patients would have to sign a consent form that explains what will happen and will include the names of any students who might take part.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a clinical ethicist who co-authored a 2019 recommendation by the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, worried that determining which students can and cannot be involved prior to the procedure could limit learning opportunities.

Schedules, especially in a hospital setting, can change rapidly, Spector-Bagdady argued. If the named students aren’t available, the Colorado law wouldn’t allow others to step in and learn. Those educational opportunities are critical for future doctors to be proficient in treating women, she said.

Elizabeth Newman, public policy director at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault who supports the law, said naming the students and having them meet the patient are integral components of complete, informed consent and ensure that students learn the rules governing the consent process.

There are certain caveats, including that licensed practitioners can perform exams in emergency situations in which getting consent ahead of time isn’t possible. The law includes whistleblower protections for medical students, and doctors and hospitals could face liability if they violate the consent rules.

Those who have opposed the bills and laws across the U.S. say they’re examples of government unnecessarily meddling in patient and provider trust, and that guidance should come from medical associations.


Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

FILE - A crew of workers supervised by the National Transportation Safety Board place flags among t...

Associated Press

Loss of oxygen in cabin may have led to Virginia plane crash, expert says

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A loss of oxygen is a leading theory for why an unresponsive business jet flew over the nation’s capital Sunday before it crashed in rural Virginia. But federal investigators are just beginning to look for answers, and an expert cautioned against jumping to conclusions. The Cessna Citation took off from Elizabethton, […]

12 hours ago

Matthew Nilo is arraigned on rape charges stemming from assaults in Charlestown, in 2007 and 2008 i...

Associated Press

DNA from drinking glass links suspect to 4 Boston sexual assaults in 2007 and 2008, prosecutor says

BOSTON (AP) — A New Jersey lawyer charged with sexually assaulting four women in Boston about 15 years ago was ordered held on $500,000 bail Monday during a hearing in which a prosecutor said authorities helped tie him to the attacks by getting DNA from a drinking glass he had used. Matthew Nilo, of Weehawken, […]

12 hours ago

FILE - Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman leaves the stand after testifying, J...

Associated Press

Wisconsin judge: Don’t delete records from probe into 2020 Trump loss

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Monday declined to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to ensure that no records are deleted from a now-closed state office created to investigate former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. The lawsuit was one of several filed by liberal watchdog group American Oversight against former Wisconsin Supreme Court […]

12 hours ago

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks before the start of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC23,...

Associated Press

Apple unveils sleek ‘Vision Pro’ goggles. Will it be what VR has been looking for?

After years of speculation, Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed the arrival of Vision Pro VR goggles at the the company's annual developers conference.

12 hours ago

Associated Press

‘Cheers’ bar sells for $675,000 at Dallas auction of items from classic TV shows

DALLAS (AP) — The bar from the television series “Cheers” sold for $675,000 at auction over the weekend, garnering the highest bid among the nearly 1,000 props, costumes and sets from classic TV shows offered up from a collection amassed by one man over more than three decades. Heritage Auctions said that the items sold […]

12 hours ago

FILE - Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., speaks during a House Rules Committee hearing at the...

Associated Press

Hoskin wins another 4-year term as chief of Cherokee Nation, country’s most populous tribe

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — Cherokee Nation’s Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. won reelection to another four-year term as leader of the nation’s most populous tribe, according to unofficial results posted Monday on the tribe’s website. Those results, which are expected to be certified later Monday by the tribe’s Election Commission, show Hoskin won nearly 63% […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Colorado embraces broad law requiring patient consent for pelvic exams while sedated