New medical policy to require chaperones during examinations

The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved a new policy on Nov. 7 that will require medical chaperones to be present while students receive clinical examinations at Sindecuse Health Center.

The policy, based upon the American Medical Association code of ethics, was drafted by Sindecuse, WMU Unified Clinics and the WMU Athletic Department.

The decision to update university policy comes as a partial response to the Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted more than 160 girls while practicing as a doctor and osteopathic physician for the USA Gymnastics team at Michigan State University.

“The key for us is that it’s (chaperone) not a family member or friend who’s going in and is actually a medically trained individual, and who is an employee,” Associate General Counsel member Jessica Swartz said.

The AMA Code of Ethics says that physicians should establish clear expectations that chaperones will uphold professional standards of privacy and confidentiality.

Chaperones will be optional for students receiving “non-sensitive examinations,” and required for students receiving “sensitive examinations.”

By this set of standards and expectations, WMU hopes that this policy will protect students from situations similar to the Nassar scandal.

Qualifications for each examination will be published on each department’s website sometime this week.

Swartz said that the chaperones will come from within the university and community and each department will assign their own chaperones to their own departments.

However, not everyone from the Western community agree.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing because I wouldn’t want someone else in the room with my doctor and I,” WMU senior André Bradley said. “I don’t know if I would be as honest or comfortable.”

Though there is concern about whether or not it would be easy to be honest with a chaperone present, under the AMA Code of Ethics in regards to medical chaperones, patients would have the option of private conversation with their physician under sensitive circumstances.

The code reads: “Provide opportunity for private conversation with the patient without the chaperone present. Physicians should minimize inquires or history taking of a sensitive nature during a chaperoned examination.”

This policy was taken into effect on Nov. 7. Any students with questions or concerns may contact Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 or visit their website at https://wmich.edu/healthcenter/contact.

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