Medical students continue to be involved in legally and ethically concerning intimate examination practices despite concerns being raised about this for many decades, according to the authors of a Perspective published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Although Australian law is clear on the importance of consent and the implications of this regarding assault, Australian medical governance makes some assumptions about medical school policies for intimate examinations and allows attention about the requirements for written consent.
Other countries have introduced specific ethical codes and guidance in recognition that medical students may be involved in unconsented intimate examinations.
An individual's likelihood of engaging in a behavior is influenced by three factors: their attitudes toward the behavior, their perceptions of the social norms, and their perceived ability to perform the behavior.
Although contemporary medical education and ethics actively promotes patient autonomy and informed consent, students can unfortunately find themselves working in weak ethical climate within the clinical workplace.
Most medical education and psychological research indicate that students are strongly influenced by the cultural norms of their workplace and their supervisory relationships.
The most common problems with medical student involvement in intimate examinations and procedures are not only rogue student behaviour.
They also struggle with the conflict between the reality and expectations of clinical practice as students narrating specific instances of being asked by their supervisors to conduct or remain present during intimate examinations without clear and/or adequately informed patient consent.
Anyone supervising medical students in clinical settings should critically examine their clinical workplace cultures and consider whether they adequately protect both patients and students.