Should we prevent non-therapeutic and extreme body modification?

Bioethics. 2008 Jan; 22(1):8-15

Should we prevent non-therapeutic and extreme body modification?

Schramme T


In this paper, I discuss several arguments against non-therapeutic mutilation. Interventions into bodily integrity, which do not serve a therapeutic purpose and are not regarded as aesthetically acceptable by the majority, e.g. tongue splitting, branding and flesh stapling, are now practised, but, however, are still seen as a kind of ‘aberration’ that ought not to be allowed. I reject several arguments for a possible ban on these body modifications. I find the common pathologisation of body modifications, Kant’s argument of duties to oneself and the objection from irrationality all wanting. In conclusion, I see no convincing support for prohibition of voluntary mutilations.

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