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American Journal of Bioethics.

Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting and the Rights of the Child: Moving Toward Consensus

What are the ethics of child genital cutting? In a recent issue of the journal, Duivenbode and Padela called for a renewed discussion of this question. Noting that modern health care systems “serve individuals with a wide array of preferences about how their bodies should look and function,” they asked how physicians and policymakers should respond to requests for procedures “that may be rooted in cultural or religious values, or perhaps … social preference rather than good medical practice” (4). The impetus for their article was a recent high-profile U.S. federal court case—the first to test the 1996 American law prohibiting “female genital mutilation” (FGM). Legally, this term refers to the intentional cutting or sewing of “the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.” No allowance is made for what the law calls “custom or ritual.” The sole exception is for medical necessity.

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Volume 19, Issue 10
October 2019