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An extra pair of eyes: do patients want a chaperone when having an anogenital examination?

James A. Baber A B , Stephen C. Davies A and Linda S. Dayan A

A Clinic 16, Department of Sexual Health, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 4(2) 89-93
Submitted: 19 December 2006  Accepted: 26 February 2007   Published: 23 May 2007


Background: Anogenital examinations can be embarrassing for patients and can leave clinicians open to accusations of professional misconduct. Little is known about the attitudes of patients in Australia towards the use of chaperones. Methods: In 2006, we surveyed 480 patients attending two sexual health clinics in northern Sydney. Our aim was to determine their attitudes towards the use of chaperones for anogenital examinations. Results: Of the 480, 58% were male and 42% female. Most women (64%) preferred a female examining clinician, whereas most men (68%) had no preference for gender of the examining clinician (P < 0.0001). While 32% of women wanted a chaperone if being examined by a male, 29% did not. Only 4% of women wanted a chaperone when being examined by a female. Only 1% of men wanted a chaperone irrespective of the sex of the examining clinician. Independent predictors of women wanting a chaperone with a male clinician were preference for a female clinician (OR 6.59, 2.48–17.5; P < 0.001) and preference for a female chaperone (OR 4.02, 1.44–11.2; P = 0.008). The majority of participants felt that they should be involved in the decision to have a chaperone. Conclusions: Although a substantial minority of women want a chaperone when being examined by a male, a similar proportion do not want a chaperone. If a woman requests a female clinician, she should be offered a chaperone if there is only a male examiner available. Further study is required to determine why some women want a chaperone and how to distinguish them from other women.

Additional keywords: anogenital examination, chaperone, genital examination, gynaecologic examination, intimate examination, physical examination.


We thank all the clients who completed the questionnaire. We are grateful for the support of the staff of our service, and we particularly thank the administrative clinical staff (T. Jenkin, H. Jennings, A. Rickett, J. Shoebridge) for giving the questionnaire to participants. We thank Professor B. Donovan for general advice and Dr K. Byth for help with statistical analysis.


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