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Is Circumcision Unethical and Unlawful? A Response to Morris et sl.

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In 2016, we argued that non-therapeutic male circumcision before the age of consent is unethical and unlawful. In a response article published in 2018, Morris and colleagues sought to undermine our claims, raising a number of arguments that, we will demonstrate in the present essay, lack both logical and empirical support. The authors also advanced the unprecedented suggestion that physicians have an ethical duty to recommend male circumcision to parents. Here, we evaluate this novel suggestion and find it lacking. Indeed, as we will argue, the opposite is true: physicians are ethically proscribed from recommending and performing medically unnecessary surgery on healthy children, including the genitalia of both boys and girls. Moreover, boys have the same legal rights as girls under US and international law to bodily integrity and self-determination; parents' constitutional rights do not extend to modifying their healthy children's bodies; and even if parents had such rights, it is unlawful for physicians to circumcise healthy boys.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2019

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  • The Journal of Medical Law and Ethics (JMLE) aims to publish excellent quality peer-reviewed articles, reports, case notes and essays in the field of medical law and ethics, which is a very exciting and controversial area of law. This journal aims to focus in particular on the legal and ethical aspects of medicine. This is an opportunity for the increasing number of academics and practitioners alike to discuss the most controversial areas of medical law, to present research, to analyse and criticise the law, and hopefully aim to improve the way that medical care is provided.
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