Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues

Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2017

This report was written by the Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures, of which I am a member.

There has been increasing demand for invasive cosmetic procedures in the UK, prompting questions about potential risks to users and the lack of regulation and professional standards in this area. This report explores ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance. It engages in detailed ethical analysis and makes recommendations affecting all parts of the sector.

You can read the report here.

 

The body, appearance norms, cosmetic procedures, modification

I am currently writing about the distinctions between cosmetic, cultural, and clinical surgery.

One working paper, “Cultural v. Cosmetic v. Clinical Surgery: Challenging the Distinction” argues that cultural elements pervade both cosmetic and clinical surgery.

Another paper, “Medicalised genital cutting and the limits of choice”, is in preparation for a major inter-disciplinary volume on female genital cosmetic surgery.

I am planning  a major new research project titled Intact: The Political Philosophy of the Unmodified Body.

This academic research connects to two further projects:

I am a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures, due to report this summer. This major report is aimed at policy makers and stakeholders. It identifies the ethical issues arising from the increasing use of invasive cosmetic procedures, and makes recommendations for regulation and other measures. The Working Party consists of experts from Philosophy, Psychology, Medicine, Nursing, Surgery, Law, Anthropology, Sociology, and Advocacy / Activism. It has been collecting evidence and deliberating for nearly two years.

I am a trustee of the charity Genital Autonomy, which campaigns against necessary genital cutting of children, whether they are male, female, or intersex.

Medicalised Genital Cutting and the Limits of Choice

in Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery: Interdisciplinary Analysis and Solution, edited by Sarah Creighton and Lih-Mei Lao (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

In this chapter I challenge the idea that an appeal to choice exonerates Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS). My argument proceeds in five stages. First, I consider the normative role that choice plays in liberal society and philosophy. Second, I note that UK law does not treat choice as adequate for accessing FGCS. Third, I consider the relationship between choice and the concept of normality. Fourth, I consider choice in the context of cosmetic surgery generally, and analyse the distinctive features of FGCS. Fifth, I consider the policy implications of my analysis.

Judging Women: 25 Years Further Toward a Feminist Theory of the State

Feminist Political Quarterly (Vol. 3 No. 2, 2017).

The title of this paper is “Judging Women”, a phrase that can be understood in three senses. First, when is it acceptable or necessary to make judgements about what women do? Feminists may be wary of subjecting women’s choices and actions to criticism, but the paper argues that such criticism is implied by a feminist perspective on patriarchy, a perspective which is necessarily critical. Second, when can women engage in the act of judging? The paper argues that being judgmental is popularly considered a vice, but only when done by women. Feminism should insist on women’s right to judge. Third, how are we to judge who counts as a woman? The paper investigates the commonalities and contrasts between feminism and trans issues, and discusses the concepts of essentialism and transphobia. The focus throughout is on MacKinnon’s work, which offers profound, sustained, rich analysis of these questions but does not fully resolve them.

You can read the paper here.

Genital Autonomy Conference

cir_genitalintegrity_internlsymbolI had a profoundly moving and informative time listening and speaking at the Genital Autonomy 14th Annual Symposium on Changing Global Perceptions: Child Protection & Bodily Autonomy. The Symposium was at Keele University on 14-16 September 2016. You can find details of the Symposium here. My talk was titled “Cultural v. Cosmetic v. Clinical Surgery: Challenging the Distinction.”

There is a general consensus in liberal theory, practice, and law that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of rights and justice that should be banned. However, there is no such consensus about male circumcision or cosmetic surgery, including labiaplasty. These practices are legal in most liberal states and there is no general critique of them in mainstream liberal theory. This talk will consider the philosophical reasons in favour of distinguishing FGM from male circumcision and labiaplasty, and find them wanting. Both cosmetic and clinical surgeries are fundamentally cultural. I argue that male circumcision and cosmetic surgery should be regulated in the same way as FGM – which means, among other things, much stricter regulations on when such surgeries can be performed on children.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures

nuffieldI am a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures. You can find more about the project, including the other members, here.

Invasive cosmetic procedures are becoming increasingly popular and accessible in the UK, prompting questions about potential risks to users and the lack of regulation and professional standards in this area.

This project will explore ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance.

Autonomy and equality in cultural perspective: Response to Sawitri Saharso

home_cover-2Feminist Theory Vol. 5 No. 3 (December 2004).

This paper criticises Sawitri Saharso’s argument that hymen repair surgery and sex-selective abortion can be both multiculturalist and feminist policies.

You can read the paper here.