Women’s struggle for dignity and respect during smear tests | Letters

Dr Türkei Michael Blees finds the idea that a healthcare professional would use the term ‘virgin speculum’ breathtaking, while Susannah Brown describes the pain and humiliation she felt at one cervical smear exam

After working for 40 years as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, the term “virgin speculum” took my breath away (The ‘virgin speculum’: proof that medicine is still rife with outrageous myths about women, 19 January). Unprofessional and stupid. Unfortunately, most people are not able to use their own language with skill and precision.

In German we call the small speculum the Kinderspeculum (child speculum) – still not ideal but better than the misleading term “virgin speculum”.

As gynaecologists, we have to be able to deal with matters of high sensitivity, and if we are not able to use the right, non-offensive words, we should not work in the medical profession. Human dignity is indivisible.
Dr Türkei Michael Blees
Hachenburg, Westerwaldkreis, Germany

• Calling the extra small speculum the “virgin speculum” is the least of our worries, important as it is. What really matters is the humanity and kindness of the person conducting the examination. I have lain on a table behind a curtain, crying my eyes out from pain and humiliation after an attempt at a cervical examination, while the woman who hurt me was tapping furiously away at her computer, expressing her disapproval of me as she noted all the ways it was my fault that she couldn’t complete the exam.

I’d have loved her to have suggested a smaller speculum, anything other than ramming harder and telling me to relax. I’m a lifelong supporter of cervical exams, but I’ve never been back since then.
Susannah Brown
The Camp, Gloucestershire

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