Australian and UK medical students carried out intrusive procedures on unconscious and anesthetized patients without first gaining consent, news.com.au reported Friday.
The unauthorized examinations included genital, rectal and breast exams, according to Australian women's magazine Madison, and raised serious questions about the ethics of future doctors.
The research, to be published in international medical journal Medical Education, describes -- among others -- a student with "no qualms" about performing an anal examination on a female patient because she did not think the woman's consent was relevant.
Another case is of a man who was subjected to rectal examinations from a "queue" of medical students after he was anesthetized for surgery.
The author of the study, Professor Charlotte Rees, voiced concerns about senior medical staff ordering students to perform unauthorized procedures, leaving the students torn between the strong ethics of consent in society and the weak ethics of some medical staff.
Of students who were put in this position during the research, 82 percent obeyed orders.
One student refused to take part in the examination of a woman, saying the patient was “part spread-eagled on the bed, and the nurse is pulling down her jeans at the same time, and it was all very complicated, and you could see her -- she was about 17.”
The study consists of 200 students across three unnamed medical schools in Britain and Australia.
Carol Bennett, the CEO of the Consumer Health Forum of Australia, said the report was a "poor reflection on these medical schools, that they are setting these examples."