Labioplasty in Girls Under 18 Years of Age: An Unethical Procedure?
Clinical Ethics 2008 March; 3(1): 37-41
Labioplasty is a surgical procedure performed to alter the size and shape of the labia minora. The reasons for women requesting this procedure remain largely unknown and recently girls and young women under the age of 18 years have been requesting this type of surgery. This paper examines the ethical acceptability of performing this procedure on under 18s. We will first discuss whether labioplasty can be considered to be a therapeutic technique. We will claim that, while it is difficult to offer a definitive definition of what constitutes a therapeutic technique, in our view labioplasty cannot be considered as such. This conclusion has relevance for the ethical acceptability of the procedure, its legal status in regard to the Female Genital Mutilation Act and the debates over who can give consent for it. It will be concluded that in our current state of knowledge, the benefits of labioplasty are far from clear, whereas the harms are demonstrable and therefore this procedure should not be offered to those aged under 18 years.
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