Gender and cultural understandings in medical nonindicated interventions: A critical discussion of attitudes towards nontherapeutic male circumcision and hymen (re)construction

S. Saharso, Gily Coene*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Hymen (re)construction and nontherapeutic male circumcision are medical nonindicated interventions that give rise to specific ethical concerns. In Europe, hymen (re)construction is generally more contested among medical professionals than male circumcision. Yet, from a standard biomedical framework, guided by the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice, circumcision of boys is, as this article explains, more problematic than hymen (re-) construction. While there is a growing debate on the acceptability of infant circumcision, in the case of competent minors and adults the surgery is not questioned. In the case of hymenoplasty, usually requested by a competent patient, it is recommended to only perform the operation after extensive counseling and if there are compelling conditions. The article further explores why attitudes of medical professionals toward both surgeries diverge and seeks to explain how this is largely informed by gendered and socio-cultural understandings. The article further raises critical questions on medical paternalism and the role of counseling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Ethics
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • gender, culture, male circumcision, hymen (re)construction, Professional Ethics in Medicine

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