Under a new law signed into effect by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, doctors and medical students will no longer be allowed to perform pelvic exams on unconscious patients without first having their consent in writing.
The new law also prohibits doctors and medical practitioners from inseminating or implanting an embryo in a woman using their own reproductive material.
The Florida Legislature enacted the law, effective July 1st of this year, provides legal penalties and disciplinary actions against a doctor or medical student who is convicted or found guilty of performing a pelvic exams on anyone who has not expressly given their written consent beforehand. The offense, called ‘reproductive battery,' will result in an emergency suspension of the practitioner's medical license, as well as felony criminal charges.
The new bill was sponsored in the Senate by Democratic Senator Lauren Book, and in the House by Democratic Representative Evan Jenne.
Goldberg Noone Abraham partner and trial attorney Sheba Abraham represents assault victims, and feels the new law is a good step toward reducing the risk of women being assaulted by their doctor.
“Even while awake, women are often told, ‘this is routine,' and end up having things done to them that they do not know should not be done,” she said. “While it may be likely that most women will know what's normal and what isn't, it's possible that young women, elderly, disabled, or women that do not have the opportunity to get regular medical exams may not know what is normal - they put their trust in the doctor.”
Unfortunately, this type of abhorrent behavior has taken place throughout the state, with two notable cases here in southwest Florida.
In May 2020, Dr. Thomas Lohstreter of Sarasota was accused by seven women who said they had been violated by him during their visits to his office. The victims describe the doctor of “groping” of their private parts that was “sexual in nature” after the doctor's nurse had left the room. The doctor was affiliated with the Englewood South County Medical Center. He is now facing charges of sexual assault and also battery.
In Lee County, Dr. Asif Choudhury accepted a plea deal in January 2020 after being arrested on sexual assault charges. A nurse in his office saw him assault two patients on the same day. The doctor told investigators his actions were necessary as part of the medical procedure and were not sexual in nature. He will spend approximately one year in prison, ten years on probation, has surrendered his medical license and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
“It's sad that this type of blatant unprofessionalism even needed a law in the first place,” Abraham said. “It just illustrates how a person who is supposed to be a trusted and respected member of the medical community can so flagrantly disregard the personal rights and privacy of their victims for their own sick reasons.”