Gynaecologist accused of inappropriate comment during exam

Photo: File
Photo: File
A young woman claims a senior male gynaecologist asked if he "had a chance with her" as he carried out a vaginal examination.

She says a female staff member, who was also in the room, did not say or do anything to stop him during the incident.

The woman said it was shocking and made her worry about future appointments.

Each year Emma (which is not her real name) has to get a colposcopy, a visual exam of her cervix.

Her appointment in February, at a hospital RNZ has decided not to name, started as normal.

She said the gynaecologist explained the procedure, but then things took a turn.

"He commented on the blisters on my feet and he was like: 'Oh those are some blisters, have you been out dancing wearing stilettos? Those are pretty big blisters'. And I was like: 'No, those are just from sandals.' You know - a bit weird how he's commenting on my blisters," she said.

"And he then he was like: 'Well as a doctor I'm going to tell you to lay off wearing stilettos and going out dancing, will you listen to that advise?' And I was like 'Yeah sure'. And then he was like: 'Oh, so a blonde who listens to what she's told to do'."

"And he was like: 'Do I have a chance with you?'"

Emma said the comments were made while the exam was underway.

"He's literally in my vagina while this is happening," she said.

Emma said the woman staff member, who the hospital has confirmed would have been a senior registered nurse, was there during the appointment too.

"She was literally there and she just kind of laughed along, but you could tell that she was uncomfortable as well."

Emma felt shocked and uncomfortable. She wanted to leave.

"I just remember wanting to be out of there. It made me feel like I had done something wrong. Part of me thinks he was trying to be relatable or make light of an awkward situation, but it was entirely inappropriate," she said.

Once the appointment finished, Emma said the nurse walked her out. It was then that Emma said the nurse gave her a business card.

"She gave me a business card and she was like: 'You can contact me if you have any questions.' It was almost like she wanted me to do something about that," Emma said.

When she got home, Emma called her sister, who herself is a nurse and has chaperoned gynaecology appointments in the past.

"She sounded a bit shocked, and almost embarrassed that she might be over-dramatising what she thought had happened," Emma's sister recounts.

"After just checking she was okay, my first initial advise was to tell her to write down in her own words what had happened," she said.

Emma's sister said a nurse who is in the room during appointments, such as the one Emma had, is there to protect both the person providing the care and the person receiving the care, by bearing witness to the exam and making sure nothing inappropriate or untoward happens, from either party.

Asked about the business card, Emma's sister said, in her experience, it is not usual for a nurse to hand over a business card at the end of an appointment.

"I don't think that that is common. It might be implied that she recognised that it was inappropriate - the conversation or the conduct," Emma's sister said.

Emma did not complain about what she said happened. She felt overwhelmed, disposed of the business card and just wanted to move on.

The gynaecologist - who RNZ has chosen not to identify - denies the allegations.

"I certainly wouldn't have mentioned stilettos, it's not part of my lexicon. I've certainly never asked a person if I had a chance with her," he said.

"Comment on the blisters on her feet? Absolutely. Comment on stilettos? Not part of my lexicon. The idea if I had a chance? Absolutely deny any part of that. Never ever would I have said that."

The gynaecologist said he would have expected the nurse to have intervened if he had done anything wrong.

"There would be a nurse present the whole time, and the nurse would certainly never let me behave like that even if I chose to, so I deny what she says."

"The nurses in the clinic are very assertive, they would not let me behave that way"

The doctor said the behaviour that has been alleged is inappropriate.

"Certainly, she's been traumatised by it and that's regrettable, but as far as the allegations are concerned, certainly that last one, which I would regard as incredibly inappropriate, would never had passed my lips," he said.

Emma has not been back to the hospital since, but will have another appointment next year.

She said if it is with the same gynaecologist she would not go, and worries about the impact on other women if it also happened to them - especially for victims of sexual assault.

Emma had a simple request of the hospital.

"I would like them to have their staff not talk to females inappropriately."

The hospital was not aware of the matter when RNZ got in touch.

It said it takes the safety and wellbeing of patients extremely seriously. And it supports nurses present for these types of procedures to use their professional judgement.

"This may involve speaking directly with the clinician in the patient's presence or taking the clinician aside to raise concerns privately, as well as escalating the matter," a statement said.

It has encouraged Emma to contact its women's health service, so it could investigate.

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