Medical Patient Modesty - a non-profit organization to improve patient modesty in medical settings


Tips For Patients

Our goal is to help patients to stand up for their rights and get the modesty they wish. Don't be afraid to stand up and speak up about how much modesty you want and if you want an all same gender medical team to treat you. Before you have surgery, you should find out how much clothes they want you to take off. There was a man who had a wrist reconstruction surgery and he chose to keep his pants on. He told the doctors and nurses that they better not take his pants off and they respected his wishes. There was no reason for him to take his pants off for this surgery because they only worked on his wrist. Be firm when you tell the medical team about your modesty needs. Be sure you ask who all will be involved in the operating room. Remember that there will be at least one doctor who will be doing the surgery, at least one nurse, scrub, and anesthetist. There might be some medical students or residents of the opposite sex present and you need to speak up if you don't want them present. One man was asked to take his underwear off for knee surgery and he was humiliated. There is actually no reason for people to take their underwear off for knee surgery. We encourage you to check out tips for ob/gyn patients and urology patients. For colonoscopies, you need to ask them for an all same gender team if that's your wish ahead of time.

Don't be afraid to speak up. It doesn't matter if the doctors or nurses give you a hard time about this. Be firm about your modesty needs. It is wise to have a friend or family member to advocate for what you want.

For intimate procedures such as pap smears, prostate tests, etc., you should always demand that the door stay closed and that they put a sign on the door that says don't disturb. Sometimes, nurses or other medical professionals will walk in the room during procedures. There have been cases where the door was opened and other people in the lobby or hallway could see some private parts of a patient. You can tell the doctor that you do not want any of his/her staff to come in the room while being examined and you are holding him or her responsible for your privacy according to your patient's rights. Let the doctor know this politely yet firmly that no person will be permitted to enter without your consent. Another good tactic is that when you go to the doctor with your spouse; have them position themselves by the door acting as a block to the door being opened.

If you had a case where you felt your modesty was violated, you should write a letter to the hospital/doctor's office or the doctor. This will increase the chance of doctors and hospitals to become more sensitive to how important modesty is even in medical settings. A particular man has to go to a dermatologist every year because he had skin cancer on his ear last year. He chose a male dermatologist of course because he knew he would be checked all over. You can find a letter he wrote to the dermatologist after a bad experience below.

Letter Man Wrote to Doctor:

Dr. ___________
On June , 2009 I had an appointment with you for a skin exam at your ____________ __ location. As you are aware I was very upset and disturbed by some of the incidents that happened to me that morning at your office. We talked about some of the incidents while I was in a numb and shocked state. I have had time to think about what happened that day and I need to let you know for the record what my feelings are. When It came time for me to get called back from the waiting room I was taken to an exam room and a very nice lady asked me some health questions. I told her that I had had Basal Cell Carcinoma on my ear and that I needed to get my skin checked. She then instructed me that I needed to take off everything but my "boxers". First of all I need to ask you Doctor ____________ how does your staff members know what type of underwear I wear? The proper statement should have been "take off everything but your underwear" with no reference to type. This may seem trivial to you but if the situation was reversed and it was a male nurse asking a female patient to take off everything but her bra and thong I am sure something would be said! Second incident: No gown was offered to me to cover myself. Here I am standing in my "BRIEFS" doing what I could to protect my privacy and you did the proper thing and knock and waited until I said "come in" BUT to my shock, humiliation and embarrassment a woman walks right in with you. When I spoke up and told you that I could not permit "her" to be in the room that is when she left and our conversation began about my beliefs and privacy and dignity concerns. There was no reason she had to be in the room with us! After we talked and I calmed down you said that you would like to continue with the exam. I was on the exam table and I could not believe what happened next. A knock comes on the door and in a split second without giving you or me a chance to say "come in" the door opens and another nurse is standing there. You did jump quickly to the door and tried to block her view, but she did see me on the table in my "BRIEFS". A KNOCK ON THE DOOR IS NOT PERMISSION TO ENTER! WE WAIT UNTIL WE ARE TOLD TO ENTER, THEN WE COME IN. What if you were examining my genitals when she walked in? The entire morning caused me mental and emotional trauma. Why am I writing this letter? I am writing this letter because I think you are a good doctor, yet there are some procedures and practices at your facility that I believe need to be corrected.

* When men or women are told to take off all of their clothes except their underwear, don't assume what type they wear. Just say "underwear" NOT briefs, boxers, thong, bikini.

* When a person is asked to undress to their underwear, offer them a gown.

*The nurse who gathers the medical information before you come into the room can let the patient know that a nurse will be assisting you. Ask the patient if he is comfortable with that. DON'T ASSUME! DO NOT SURPRISE PEOPLE AND PUT THEM IN AN AWKWARD SITUATION. Many men may have a skin concern on their private area and because a female is in the room he may not discuss that with you. If the patient knows that a female assistant is going to be in the room, he can ask to see the doctor in private first. Or he may have the same convictions I have and not want a female in the room while he is in his underwear. Some men also get aroused very quickly and the presence of a woman in the room, while he is in his underwear or nude may cause him to get an involuntary erection that may be very embarrassing to him.

* Teach your staff that just because they knock on the door does not mean they have the "right" to enter until the person on the inside says "come in"

Your written response to this letter stating the corrective actions your practice will take in regard to the incidents cited will allow me to return to your office knowing that respect for my personal privacy and dignity will be provided during visits to your facility. If no response is given from your office then I will assume that these violations of privacy are not important to your practice and I will seek another Dermatologist who does care about a person's dignity, privacy and respect.

Doctor's Response To Letter:

Dear Mr. ________

Thank you very much for your letter. I read it carefully and thought very deeply about your concerns and all of the points you raised.

I would like to apologize for your negative experience during your recent visit.

We have discussed in detail the incidents surrounding your visit. The following corrective measures have been implemented. All assistants, during the intake interview, are now clearly asking each patient whether he or she would be comfortable with having an assistant present during the examination. If the patient prefers to not have an assistant present, a sign that reads "Physician Only - MA's Do Not Enter" is placed on the door so that privacy will be maintained throughout the visit. Assistants also have been reminded that gowns should be offered to all patients (this has always been our policy).

Thank you again for your correspondence. If you choose not to return here, please try to be seen by another dermatologist on a regular basis given your history of Basal Cell Carcinoma and actinic keratosis. If you have additional concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours respectfully,

Dr. _______________


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