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Readers Respond: About How Your Sense of Modesty Affected Your Medical Care

Responses: 72


Updated June 26, 2010

Our sense of modesty, that embarrassment that someone will see our body parts, can cause angst, fear or frustration in a medical or healthcare setting. Whether it's a doctor or nurse of the opposite gender to ours, or the practice of not knocking on the door, or not giving us something to cover ourselves, sharing these stories may help the medical profession begin to pay attention to our complaints when they don't appropriately address our modesty concerns. Share Your Story

publically exposed

I am 54 & have a female doctor. She always has a female assistant with her. I am always in the almost useless paper gown. When she does a prostate exam, I am always put in stirrups since my prostate is higher up than usual. It is an embarrassing position, but what's the problem. they are medical professionals. It's not as if she was asking the receptionist to come and watch. If I have to be displayed like that I'd prefer a woman doctor over a male.
—Guest w

male patient modesty

I am a 68 year old male with a trac and copd. Recently I was in the hospital being treated for breathing problems. One day 2 ladies walked into my room and introduced themselves saying they were from wound care and needed to take a photo of my bare bottom. To me, my medical needs trumps my modesty, so I agreed, stood up and bared my bottom for the photo. After reading this forum and becoming more educated on "patients rights", I started thinking about that incident. It only takes 1 person to take a picture, so why were there 2 ladies present. Also, I knew that I did not have any wounds on my bottom, so the photo was not a medical need. As I said earlier, my medical needs trumps my modesty, but this was not a medical need. If I find myself in this situation again I will simply say, "no photo is needed. I know I don't have any wounds on my bottom"

tired old excuse

The tired old comment made to excuse female staff witnessing you naked is " we've seen it all before ". Maybe true but misses the point entirely because but it addresses only the staff's feelings. It does nothing for the patient who is having probably his first experience of being bared under the gaze of one , & usually more, women. In my case gown was removed when I was on the table- so prone- everyone else standing; me nude in full view of maybe a dozen or so staff- not all there for my procedure, maybe not all medical staff, and certainly more women than men- in the room. I assure you that my humiliation as I was looked at- very openly - by those women was not at all reduced by knowing that they had seen other men humiliated in the same way.
—Guest gerry

It matters...

These experiences stay with us and can lead to avoidance of medical care into the future. My SIL had to endure two males preparing her for radiation treatment about 20 years ago, she was completely naked. It was traumatizing, to this day she still can't bear to think about that time, she said it made it harder to fight the cancer. There were no females available to do this prep. I think all too often they blame staff shortages, but if you say NO and stand firm, they'll find someone. The exception is requesting a female/male to do your GA during surgery, I know women who've mentioned there STRONG preference for an all-female team only to find a male strolling in to do the GA. I don't think they care and if they put you on the spot like that, know most will just go along with it. As a result of early trauma when I was hospitalized as a child, I avoid male doctors, nurses etc. and would say NO and leave if my wishes were dismissed or ignored. It matters, make sure they know that...
—Guest EB

interesting observations

the medical profession is often the subject of ridicule and complaint.... no doubt because it is a highly sensitive area for everyone... It also means that it's extremely difficult to genuinely please everyone. Granted... Some nurses have no tact, cold bedside manners and can say quite horrible blatant things with a superiority arrogance to it. On the grander scale however... "males only please" "females only please" is quite a difficult and often impractical ask. Considering nursing is heavily female dominated, requesting "males only" is often asking the impossible. dependant on the surgery and the fact that surgical nurses is specialty... the chances of 2-3 male nurses scrubbing in for your request is low based purely on availability alone. not to mention that request in itself could mess with the entire days surgical list. I do understand though... the offence here is you were awake and felt that humiliation. You shouldn't have been put through that.
—Guest sam

Second person in room

I don't know if it's me. I am male and can be naked if I must n front of a female doctor. The problem for me is when there is an assistant in the room. It tells the male patient that he is not to be trusted, and for some reason, it makes me incredible nervous. I had a dermatology skin exam with a female dermatologist. Obviously you are exposed, and what bothered me was not her, but the assistant being in the room. Can't explain it, it just rubs me the wrong way, unless I am asked about it.
—Guest Brett

Bashful Female Physicians

I have to agree, some female doctors don't really do physical exams anymore. I think this does great disservice to the patient. I was told to just get a PSA blood test, rather than a digital rectal examination, but the bottom line is 30% of prostate cancer found in a digital rectal examination is missed in a PSA test. I mean, if you don't observe the skin of a client you won't know what normal is when something changes. I just feel the physical exam is being skipped by female physicians.
—Guest Ace

A Delicate Subject Part 2

As they moved me back and forth to adjust my placement, I was lying there bare breasted and it was extremely embarrassing. Health professionals need to be aware of the effect this indifferent attitude has on patients. I had to go to a different facility today for one more test and the techs were very conscious of my privacy. They made sure that the parts of me they weren't working on were covered. It made all the difference to me. I will certainly mention this to the techs at the former facility that they should adopt these policies.
—Guest JAD

A Delicate Subject

I recently had surgery for breast cancer and am now preparing for radiation treatment. If you don't know, you must go in before the actual treatment for a CAT scan and then they mark your breast for placement of the radiation to be applied. You must go back a second time so they can recheck it. There is one man who is a technician at this facility. I told the radiologist that I wasn't comfortable with a male tech. She said that she couldn't guarantee that she could accommodate my request. During my first visit, I was placed on the CAT machine (by a female tech) and my gown was completely removed leaving me naked from the waist up. I then had to hold onto a bar above and behind where my head was. The Tech suddenly left the room without telling me and left me there bare. She couldn't even bother to throw the robe over me. When she returned, she had the male tech with her. Apparently they had to move me further over on the board. Did she cover me to do that? NO.
—Guest JAD


When I was getting a shot for testoenoe I was in a small lab now where to bend over the nurse next to u and she tells u to pull down your pants and u do well as she turns towards u u she helooking down at my penis she give the shot as she raises up I catch her looking at it again then u pull your pants up it happens to be embarrassing and it seems to happen a lot
—Guest davidand

naked in Dr office

When I was a teen living with a single mom I got routine physical the female Dr always had me in my underwear .until see needed to check my privates .she then had me to remove my underwear to check I stood in their naked with my mom in their I did not like it but i5 had to be done be naked in the Dr office does noitt affect me at all I went to the local clinic for a rash the nurse want to see my rash before I saw the nurse practitioner at which I had the get totally naked in front of her to see the rash i t was OK
—Guest mark

No care for me

I worry so much as a man on this issue of not having my modesty respected I just won't get exams. When my wife wanted to stop using birth control she wanted me to get a vasectomy. I went in for the procedure and laid on the table naked from the waist down and shirt pulled up. the female nurse inspected the shaving job I did on myself as instructed before I came in that day, "how nice and smooth you are". Three different women opened the door to tell or ask a question. It made me feel like that dream when you are naked in public. I hated it and I won't go back and I know I am risking my health, but I will keep on making excuses rather than go through something like that again.
—Guest SDT


—Guest BJW

Long term implications

I think it is important for providers to understand that every interaction they have with a patient has a ripple effect and affects not only interaction, but also the patient's willingness to access necessary care in the future. If you leave a medical encounter feeling violated then you might be less willing to access care in the future and you will likely approach future providers with sue is io and mistrust. This is what has happened to me. Because of the bad actions of a few I now refuse almost all care and my current providers end up picking up the tab for something that someone else did. It is not fair to them as they have done nothing wrong. I think all providers need to be aware of how damaging these encounters can be.
—Guest Guest

The Issue of Confidentiality

For years, anything that happened to me medically got reported to my mother, long after I was a self supporting adult living on my own. In fact, it continued even after I was in my 40s and had a conservatorship of my mother! Nurses and doctors both would tell my mother every detail of every doctor visit I had no matter how much I complained about it to my health care facility/HMO. My mother was an overbearing "control freak" and a very anxious hypochondriac, so the last thing I wanted or needed was having all of my intimate medical information revealed to her. When I protested, nurses would act as if I had no real right to confidentiality because "after all, she is your mother." One doctor actually phoned my mother and invited her to be present at my appointment without informing me so that when I arrived for the appointment, there was a "surprise" awaiting me. When I talked to her later, I was angry. I told her I was an adult (age 40!!) but she still didn't get it. Made me furious.
—Guest Laurie

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