On Female Genital Cutting: Factors to be Considered When Confronted With a Request to Re-infibulate
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According to the World Health Organization, female genital cutting affects millions of girls and women worldwide, particularly on the African continent and in the Middle East. This paper presents a plausible, albeit hypothetical, clinical vignette and then explores the legal landscape as well as the ethical landscape physicians should use to evaluate the adult patient who requests re-infibulation. The principles of non-maleficence, beneficence, justice, and autonomy are considered for guidance, and physician conscientious objection to this procedure is discussed as well. Analyses of law and predominant principles of bioethics fail to yield a clear answer regarding performing female genital cutting or re-infibulation on an adult in the United States. Physicians should consider the patient’s physical, mental, and social health when thinking about female genital cutting and should understand the deep-rooted cultural significance of the practice.
KeywordsFemale genital cutting Female genital mutilation Re-infibulation Beneficence Autonomy
The authors thank the Rudin Fellowship in Medical Ethics and Humanities of NYU School of Medicine for its funding support. The Rudin Fellowship required submission of this manuscript for publication although the fellowship committee was not involved in the writing of this manuscript.
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