Physicians should never examine a patient without a chaperone present

When examining a patient, a physician should always have a chaperone present in the room.  The policy of the Medical Board has been to require a chaperone in the room when examining a patient of the opposite gender and when examining a patient in intimate areas of their body (such as a breast or vaginal examination).

However, after representing physicians before the Medical Board for nearly twenty years, I recommend that physicians have a chaperone present in the room during any patient examination. The chaperone is there to witness the examination. The chaperone represents the physician.

Often, I have had physicians tell me that they do not have a chaperone in the room because the patient brought a parent, spouse, friend or child with them to the examination. This is a mistake. If the patient alleges inappropriate conduct on the part of the physician, the friend or family member will not defend the physician and will support the statements of the patient.

Often, physicians tell me that they do not have the staff support to have a chaperone with them at all times when examining patients. My advice to them is that they cannot afford to NOT have a chaperone present.

If a complaint is made to the Medical Board by a patient that a physician touched them in an inappropriate manner during a medical examination, the Medical Board will open an investigation. The investigation can span many months or even many years (there is no statute of limitations for a Medical Board investigation).  Without a chaperone present to testify on behalf of the physician, it is a simply a case of “he said – she said”, which is difficult for a physician to defend.

Patients have also been known to file police reports and to press criminal charges against physicians for conduct that took place during an examination, as well as filing civil law suits against physicians.

Physical examinations can be intimidating, embarrassing and occasionally uncomfortable for patients. It is always best to continue to explain to the patient what is taking place during the examination to alleviate their fears and concerns. However, it is also imperative that the physician have a chaperone present in the room to observe the conduct of the physician AND the patient.

The name of the chaperone should also be noted in the patient’s file as evidence that they were present during the examination. It is also recommended when conducting examinations of patients in a hospital setting to have a floor nurse present in the room during the examination.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group, LLC (formerly Collis, Smiles & Collis, LLC) at 614-486-3909 or contact me at beth@collislaw.com.

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