A recently published anonymous essay exposed two cases of sexual assault and misogyny taking place in the operating room.
The essay, titled “Our Family Secret”, was published on August 17, 2015, in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The author described two doctors who adopted inappropriate behaviors while their patients were unconscious and explained that he wanted to publish these stories because it’s import to prevent such acts from repeating in the future.
The idea came to him while he was teaching a course to medical students in their senior year. He asked them if they held anyone responsible for an unpleasant clinical experience that they still can’t forgive.
One of the students in the class spoke up and said that he once witnessed misconduct and regretted not doing anything about at the time. He explained that while a female patient who was there for a vaginal hysterectomy was under general anesthesia, the surgeon looked at the young student after prepping the vaginal area of the patient and uttered the words “I bet she’s enjoying this”. He than laughed and gave the student a wink.
The event still affected the student as he called the surgeon a “dirtball” while relating the experience. He also admitted to laughing along with the surgeon because he didn’t know what else to do.
The essay author also shared a story of his own. He remembered being in his third year and helping a surgeon deliver a baby. Unfortunately something went wrong and the mother’s vagina began to gush out blood.
The resident doctor requested anesthesia, started performing an internal bimanual uterine massage (which involves placing a hand inside the vagina and pressing a fist against the uterus), and saved the woman’s life.
But once the bleeding stopped, the doctor said a phrase along the lines of “Atta girl. That’s what I like. A nice, tight uterus”. What’s more, he then raised his free hand up in the air and started to sing La Cucaracha and to shuffle like he was dancing.
The essay author admitted that he also laughed and sang along because he didn’t know what else to do. The two only stopped when the anesthesiologist began to yell at them.
Both he and Dr. Christine Laine, the Annals of Internal Medicine’s Editor in Chief, revealed that they chose to make these cases public so that physicians will have the courage to speak up when and if they witness such behaviors, and help the medical community hopefully put an end them.
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