MG Asks: Are Chaperons During Your OBGYN Exams Recommended or Required?
The relationship between doctor and patient is an intimate one; this is especially true when it comes to the fields of gynecology and obstetrics. Your OBGYN sees you through some incredibly formative experiences and they really do see all of you.
And sometimes they bring company. When there is another medical professional present during your examinations, this person is called a chaperon. Having a chaperon present is a recommendation by the American Medical Association, and has been for decades. Many professionals adhere to this in order to enhance their patient’s feeling of comfort and security, as well as to guard against claims of misconduct. (Not necessarily in that order.)
The AMA guidelines state, “From the standpoint of ethics and prudence, the protocol of having chaperons available on a consistent basis for patient examinations is recommended.”
For male doctors treating female patients, the stringency seems pronounced. The thought is that the patient would feel more comfortable with a (female) chaperon present, if their doctor is male. Female doctors treating female patients are subject to the same recommendation from the AMA, but tend to not be as strict about adhering to it.
As our friend and adviser Dr. Frandina told us, “In our practice, we have a chaperone in the room for every visit if possible. While a gyn exam can be very personal, it is in the best interest of the doctor and the patient to have a chaperone in the room. It doesn’t matter if the doctor is male or female. Patients can get very nervous and sometimes it is helpful to have someone there who is not the doctor to offer support, be a second set of ears to hear what the doctor says and also protect the doctor by being a witness to what actually occurs.”
The women in our office all have female gynecologists; a few have never had a chaperon present and did not feel like it was necessary. One woman has always had a chaperon in her exams, it’s a protocol she’s used to and appreciates, but she doesn’t see it as necessary, per say. Now, if the doctor was a man, most say they would probably want a chaperon.
There’s an argument to be made for no chaperon too. Some women are more comfortable alone with their doctor, rather than having another person present. Granted it’s not a stranger off the street, it’s typically a nurse, but these exams are very intimate as is the information shared during them, so not wanting a third party in the room also makes sense.
Ideally, your doctor would ask if you would like a chaperon present and then you decide. If they do not ask, know that you can always request one. No matter your situation, it’s crucial to know your rights.
Photo courtesy of Comedy Central