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I live in North Carolina. Each year I have a general physical exam. This includes the ritual known as the prostate exam. I don’t particularly look forward to it. But, it takes a few seconds and I’m reassured knowing that there are no lumps or bumps. My internist is male. And, in the exam room, it’s just the three of us – my doctor, the electronic medical record, and me.

But, if I cross the border into Georgia for the same exam, the exam room may be more crowded.

The Georgia Composite Medical Board recently proposed new rules defining “Unprofessional Behavior.” One new rule, if adopted and enforced, would redefine “unprofessional conduct” to include:

Rule 360-3-.02(12):

“Conducting a physical exam of the breast and/or genitalia of a patient without a chaperone present.”

This Rule would replace the existing Rule 360-3-.02(12) which currently reads:

“Conducting a physical exam of the breast and/or genitalia of a patient of the opposite sex without a chaperone present.”

The pre-existing rule was not perfect. If a patient does NOT want another person in the room, it should be their right to keep the traffic down – even if the examining doctor is of the opposite sex. The old rule is silent on whether the chaperone needs to the same sex as the patient. So, read literally, a male doctor could bring in another male staff-member to comply with the pre-existing rule for say, a gynecologic exam.

Now for the potential consequences of the proposed rule.

My yearly prostate exam would fill the room with yet another individual. I’m male. My internist is male. The proposed rule would add another body in the exam room. Might be male; might be female.

And, my exam is more than a prostate exam. My shirt is off and my heart and lungs are auscultated. Since the stethoscope touches my breast, does this now turn into a “breast exam?” Must the chaperone come back in?

Why not put in some bleachers?

On January 7, 2016, the Georgia Composite Medical Board referred the proposed updated rule back to the Rules Committee “to address concerns.” So, it’s not a done deal just yet.

It’s not clear from the Board’s minutes what these “concerns” were. But, my chest and my prostate can name a few.

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