Florida HB 698 went into effect on July 1, 2020. This bill prohibits any health care provider, medical student, or other student studying under a health care practitioner from performing a pelvic examination of a patient without the patient’s consent or consent by the patient’s representative. The new law defines “pelvic examination” to include examinations of female anatomy, and it contains other non-gender specific terms, such as an examination of the rectum and “external pelvic tissue or organs.” The new law does not differentiate between medical subspecialties, and it applies to both females and males. There are two exceptions to the newly required consent, including: 1) a court order requiring a pelvic examination to gather evidence, and 2) the pelvic examination is needed to avoid serious risk and irreversible physical impairment to the patient. Also included in this bill is the definition of the term “reproductive battery,” which occurs when a health care practitioner implants a human embryo or human reproductive material into another individual without consent. As discussed in the bill, committing a “reproductive battery” carries criminal implications and serves as a basis for disciplinary action against the health care practitioner’s license.
This bill underwent many changes and appears to address two different issues. Regarding the pelvic examination portion, earlier versions of the bill were aimed solely at female pelvic examinations while the female was unconscious due to anesthesia. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) provided a statement in response to this new bill: “While the goal of this bill was initially to protect patients in certain training contexts, the legislation was amended to contain broad-sweeping language that means that in Florida any health care practitioner is prohibited from providing any pelvic examination on a patient—a common, medically appropriate procedure—without the written consent of the patient. . . . While this legislation may have been well-intended in its original form, it was changed very late in the legislative session to broaden the original intended scope. The actual impact will be to interfere in the patient-physician relationship and to hold women’s health care to a different standard than other care. ACOG opposes this intrusion in the patient-physician relationship and will be working with other allied groups who are impacted by this new law to repeal this requirement.”
The practical effect of this new law will change how many physicians practice, especially those who may need to examine tissue in the pelvic area, such as for hip dysplasia, or need to take a rectal temperature. Since these examinations would arguably be classified as a “pelvic examination” under the new law, a separate consent form should be signed by the patient or patient’s representative.
CSK continues to monitor this change in the medical practice of Florida and its potential effects. Our Medical Malpractice Group is available to discuss any issues to ensure compliance with these recent changes in the law.