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Were the doctor's questions to my wife inappropriate and invasive?

Tagged as: Health<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (16 June 2011) 7 Answers - (Newest, 18 May 2012)
A male United States age 41-50, anonymous writes:

I would like some advice/opinions about a doctor. My wife of over 20 years went to the OB/GYN last week for her annual pap test. I went with her. It came out clear no issues, then the doctor (male) wanted to talk with her in his office. I went in with her, the doctor said to my wife that maybe they should have this conversation alone, my wife said, no, my husband is involved in everything we do. The doctor said this might be a little personal, my wife said, so what, my husband knows everything.

He (the doctor) asked if she ever heard of HPV, she said no, I said yes, its a virus that can cause cervical cancer, or mouth/throat cancer, why does she show signs of something? You said the pap test was clear. He said no, nothing is wrong, they are just doing a risk assessment for their patients to know who to have more frequent pap tests, and who don't require them as often. My wife and I both said OK.

He asked some questions, is she sexually active, my wife said, of course we're married over 20 years. And have 3 kids. He asked how many sexual partners she's had in her life, my wife answered 1, just me. Then he asked if she'd ever performed oral sex, and my wife said yes. He asked how many partners, and she said 4 total.

My question is, since my wife and I are monogomous, and any 'oral' activity my wife did before dating me was more than 20 years ago, wasn't the doctor asking personal questions about her past that are really none of his business. I mean if we just got married there might be a chance for some risk, but not after 20+ years ago. I think the doctor was just some weird jerk who gets off on hearing about stuff, oh, I forgot to mention after she said 4 oral sex partners, he asked if she swallowed their semen or not. Again, I do realize that increases the risk of getting HPV, but not something she did 20 years ago.

Now I'm a little concerned that he wrote these answers down in his stupid little file. I think we need to find a new OB/GYN and not give this doctor as a previous doctor so those records won't be carried forward and just lost. My wife thinks he (the doctor) was a little weird and made her uncomfortable, but that I'm making too big of a deal out of it.

Am I? Or do I have a right to feel this was inappropriate and an invasion of both of our privacys?

View related questions: her past, oral sex, semen, swallow

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A female reader, So_Very_Confused United States +, writes (18 May 2012):

So_Very_Confused agony auntOh please. he was doing a medical assessment for HPV and I give kudos to him for trying to make sure he got the proper answers by giving your wife a chance to talk in private.

I also give kudos to you and your wife for an open honest trusting relationship and specifically to her for her honesty with the doctor.

HONESTY with the doctor is critical.

What permanent file are you afraid his notes will go to? the one where she goes to heaven and is judged for being sexual before you?

It sounds fine to me and as far as swallowing goes, if she spit it did not go down her throat and possibly contaminate her throat and that's probably why he asked.

And to the last poster... keeping things from a doctor could adversely affect your health or medical treatment.

That is why my partner and I disclose all activities to the doctor when asked even if they are illegal in our state (such as oral sex or drug use)

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A male reader, tom h Canada +, writes (18 May 2012):

As a fairly conservative fellow married to my one and only wife for 25 years, I can tell you categorically that neither of us would every provide such answers. Ever. I don't really care what doctor respondent above said; I would merely tell the MD that his questions are too personal and no one needs to know information about sexual partners. If the doctor persisted, I would say, "Look, Doc, we've been faithful to each other all these years and we're monogamous. That's all you'll get!"

Remember, your replies might be covered by HIPAA but all information is discoverable in the event of legal actions or government subpoena.

Be advised that doctors ask equally inappropriate questions of teenage children -- e.g., once they're old enough to have a checkup without Mom or Dad. 14-year olds are asked "Are you sexually active?" "Are there guns in your house?" "Have your parents ever touched you inappropriately?" "Do your parents do anything illegal in the house?" Yes, they claim to be looking out for the child's "health" but I bet dollars to donuts that they are all liberals looking to pry into lives and find something to report to the authorities.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (17 June 2011):

Let us clear up the meaning of the HIPPA laws. HIPPA laws essentially protect your confidential medical information from release without your express approval. If you consent to the release or release it yourself, then HIPPA does not matter for that particular exchange of information. Certainly the information your wife told the doctor will be in her medical file, but that is where it will stay unless she consents to have it released elsewhere to other persons or entities. Now, on another note, it sounds like this doctor was taking a general survey of information. If she was not comfortable with it then she should have refused to answer the questions. I do not think there was anything inappropriate here at all--he disclosed why he was seeking the information.

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A female reader, RedAthena United States +, writes (16 June 2011):

RedAthena agony auntHi there, I work in the medical field.

On the surface, the Doctor was was collecting data. HPV is still be studied on the best possible treatments and prevention. Getting statistics on a persons sexual history is part of that.

The only reason you were uninvited at first was because your wife may have not discussed her sexual past with YOU.

No doubt the conversation was uncomfortable, it was VERY personal for sure.

I am a little concerned about the Oral Sex Question..that is VERY out of norm. If she participates in Oral..yes...if she swallows? Bizarre. (Keep in mind I work in a Dr.s office that performs Paps daily!)

Im a little suprised you went with her to her appointment for an annual PAP! I have never met a husband go with his wife before unless there was a suspected problem before hand or she was worried about something. In this case, it was a good idea you did.

That information is protected by a law called HIPPA.

You can learn more about that at

Your wife was willing to share her information, she was comfortable with that. In the future you or she an ask.."Why do you need to know this?" for your peace of mind.

It is HER choice if she changes Doctors, not yours. You can certainly speak up and voice your preference. Let her make the choice.

For the other poster, yes there are certain forms of HPV that CAN cause CERVICAL cancer, which is a serious disease in older women. However, your wife did not fit the profile for risk, so I can not see WHY he kept asking questions.

To learn more about HPV and its transmission you can go here

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 June 2011):

My god get a grip. This is exactly the sort of things that drives my sister absolutely mad (medical student). These are a set questions that they have to ask everyone that does the test. They don't change because you've been in a monogamous relationship or because your husband is in the room. Everyone gets the same questions... just like even little old grannies get asked if they have packed their own suitcase when the take a flight, no one seriously expects granny to have a bomb in there but they still have to ask.

Your doctor has to ask the standard questions because if he does not and it later turns out that there is something wrong and he didn't check then that could mean his licence is gone.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 June 2011):

It just sounds like you're being a little overconcerned to me. Maybe he genuinely wanted to make sure that she has never contracted the virus. Next time tell him he is being too invasive.

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A male reader, The Realist Canada +, writes (16 June 2011):

The Realist agony auntThat does sound very close to sexual harrasment to me. Asking about oral sex is fine but whether she swallowed or not has none or very little bearing on the concern of the doctor. Remember too that you have th right to not answer a doctors questions and if it comes up again it would be best to file a complaint against the man.

It may just be a over cautious doctor though. In my opinion this HPV thing is a joke just like many of their new viruses that they want to vacinate you for. This is comming from a biochemist. It just bothers me that they want to stick you with so many drugs for things that have been around for so long and everyone has survived just fine. Also there is no solid proof the HPV causes cancer there is just a small link between the two.

Anyway thats just my opinion, but yes I would have been as uncomfortable as you were with that doctor.

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