October 25, 2012


Two weeks ago my wife saw a surgeon for a hernia repair. The doctor said he could do the repair in conjunction with a tubal ligation if she wanted. So, yesterday I took my wife in for the surgery for both a hernia repair and tubal ligation. No one ever asked me for permission. No one asked me to sign anything. No one mentioned ANYTHING to me. (None of this is to say I would have objected, mind you. And I do believe husbands and wives should talk to each other about these things!)

What is strange is this. Earlier this year, I saw a urologist for a vasectomy and I was told–in no uncertain terms–my wife HAD to sign a consent form or they wouldn’t do it. I called another office and they required a signed consent by my wife as well. What’s up?

Yeah, we’ve heard stories like this before. This sort of sex discrimination may violate nondiscrimination law, and it seems to me like a breach of medical ethics, too. But men’s reproductive rights don’t have any loud advocates of the sort that women have.

UPDATE: Reader Merrijane Rice emails: “Not only is it a breach of medical ethics to require a wife’s signature for a vasectomy, it’s may also be a breach of federal law—or close to. According to HIPAA, you may only access your spouse’s protected health information (PHI) if you have his/her express written permission. I suppose a doctor can refuse to treat you, but I can’t think under what circumstances they should be allowed to coerce you to give up your PHI to anyone, spouse included.”

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