Griffith Informed Consent Bill Passes House Unanimously

DOVER – Patient-first legislation requiring medical professionals to obtain informed consent for specific medical procedures has passed the House unanimously.

Championed by Rep. Krista Griffith, House Bill 239 would prohibit a pelvic, rectal, or prostate examination by a health care practitioner or professional on an individual who is anesthetized or unconscious unless the patient provides informed consent. The measure also allows an exception if the examination is for diagnostic or treatment purposes, an emergency exists and the examination is necessary, or the examination is ordered by a court.

“Consent and privacy are basic principles of our society and medicine. Medical procedures are sensitive and personal, and I believe patients deserve that dignity at such a vulnerable time,” said Rep. Griffith, D-Fairfax. “Ensuring that patients are informed about what occurs when they are unconscious is a critical step to making our healthcare system as effective as possible and giving patients peace of mind that they are aware of procedures they may receive.”

Numerous states are currently pursuing similar informed consent legislation, including Maryland and New York. At least seven states have passed similar laws.

“I was pleased to work with Rep. Griffith on this important piece of legislation. This is a sensitive topic that not many patients are aware of. We have an obligation to make sure that informed consent is always the best practice,” said Sen. Ernesto Lopez, R-Lewes, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor. “This is a serious issue that demands our attention, and I look forward to seeing its passage in the Senate.”

HB 239 would define informed consent as a signing of a consent form that is written in plain language, is dated, includes a description of the procedure to be performed and states that a medical student or resident may perform or be present during the examination.

A health-care practitioner or professional who violates the section could be subject to discipline by the appropriate professional licensing board.

HB 239, which passed the House on Thursday, heads to the Senate for consideration.