Discover more from The Love Lab
Why My Mammogram Experience Taught Me About the Importance of Consent in Healthcare
Consent in the Doctor's Office
Have you ever felt like your body was being handled without your consent? That's exactly how I felt during my recent mammogram, and it got me thinking about the importance of consent in healthcare.
Recently, I had a mammogram and it was such an interesting experience. I don’t think I connected these dots the first time I had one. And truly, god bless the person who has to do this every day. But it was such a bizarre experience, I felt compelled to share it because I have a feeling I’m not alone.
(Yeah, that’s the machine. The pumpkin is simulating a breast. Not demonstrated in the gif, the hand crank to squeeze the plates together more.)
There I was, standing there in the room with the big mammogram machine, hospital gown tied around my waist, and the female technician firmly gripped my breast with her gloved hand and positioned it on the cold, hard plate of the mammogram machine, leaving me feeling awkward and uncomfortable. I mean, duh, that is what I was there for but without asking for consent I was like...
After talking about the topic of consent in my book and all my years of teaching (and dare I say, preaching), this was an experience that threw me for a loop. I was not expecting this here. Not that the process of getting your boobs smooshed between two plates wasn’t already unpleasant, but it was somehow made worse for me because here’s someone just handling one boob, manipulating where it needs to be on the plate, and it felt like I wasn’t being asked to give any consent or really, consulted at all.
This felt like an opportunity to talk about consent, not just in the bedroom. Anytime someone else is touching your body, you have the right to consent.
If a hospital administrator happens to be reading this, you may not know it, but there are organizations that provide gynecological teaching associates who act as patients so that the healthcare provider gets individual and real-time feedback on how they performed their reproductive and sexual health exams. That those practitioners exiting the training also feel less anxiety in doing their jobs is also a goal.
I think every hospital need to incorporate this type of training.
Also, because it’s National Cancer Prevention Month, take this as your friendly reminder to schedule your next check-up with your doctor. And if it’s helpful for you, something I know I will say next time is,
“I know it might be easier for you to do your job to just put my breast where it belongs, but it would feel much more comfortable for me if you would tell me when you're going to touch me or what you are about to do.”
By using this phrase, you are advocating for your own comfort and setting a boundary for your healthcare provider to respect. Remember, it's important to feel empowered to speak up and advocate for your own body during all medical procedures.
If you've had a similar experience, I encourage you to share your story and start a conversation about the importance of consent in healthcare.
I’d love to hear about your experiences.