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How to feel safe in the doctor’s office


By Dignity4Patients - 14.11.2023 - [PREVENTION]

Dignity4Patients guide for what to expect when you go to see a medical professional, and your rights as a patient:

  • End the exam at any time. If anything about the exam makes you feel uncomfortable, you can let the person examining you know and they should stop right away.

  • Ask to have someone in the room. If you want to have someone else in the exam room with you, you can ask for a nurse, friend, or family member to stay with you.

  • Privacy. The exam should be in a private room or have a curtain drawn. You should also have a private place to change your clothes before and after the exam.

  • Undress to your comfort. You should only need to undress the parts of your body that are being examined, and you shouldn’t need to stay undressed for long before or after the exam.

  • Ask for an examiner of a different gender. You can ask to be seen by someone of another gender if that makes you more comfortable (but this might require picking a new doctor and might not be possible if it’s an emergency).

  • Have your questions answered. If you ask the person examining you about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, they should answer you truthfully and right away.

  • Respect for your religion. You should be able to continue to wear religious jewelry or garments, unless they stop you from getting care.

  • Get information in the language you speak. Medical caregivers should make every effort to give you information in the language you speak. If they don’t speak your language, ask them to make arrangements to have someone interpret either on-site or through a language access line. You can also bring along a trusted friend or family member who can interpret for you.

  • Have your pain taken seriously. The person examining you should let you know if something will be painful. If you tell them it hurts and you want them to stop, they should stop right away.

What is okay and not okay during a pelvic, vaginal, breast, rectal or teste exam?

Sometimes an exam of private areas of your body is needed to stay healthy, but it should be limited to steps that are absolutely medically necessary. Here are some things that are normal and not normal during an exam of private parts of your body.


It’s OKAY for the examiner to:

  • Explain each part of the exam to you before and while it is happening.

  • Encourage you to tell them if something feels wrong or uncomfortable.

  • Is the same sex as you, if you have asked.

  • Only ask you to undress the part of your body being examined.


It’s NOT okay for the examiner to:

  • Start an intimate examination with asking for your consent to conduct one

  • Refuse to answer your questions or tell you to be quiet.

  • Refuse to tell you what they are doing or why they are doing it.

  • Decline to have another person in the room with you.

  • Insist that you undress parts of your body they are not examining.

  • Ask you questions about your sexual activity that make you uncomfortable.

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