Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries

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9780742550018: Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries

Surgery inevitably inflicts some harm on the body. At the very least, it damages the tissue that is cut. These harms often are clearly outweighed by the overall benefits to the patient. However, where the benefits do not outweigh the harms or where they do not clearly do so, surgical interventions become morally contested. Cutting to the Core examines a number of such surgeries, including infant male circumcision and cutting the genitals of female children, the separation of conjoined twins, surgical sex assignment of intersex children and the surgical re-assignment of transsexuals, limb and face transplantation, cosmetic surgery, and placebo surgery. When, if ever, do the benefits of these surgeries outweigh their costs? May a surgeon perform dangerous procedures that are not clearly to the patient's benefit, even if the patient consents to them? May a surgeon perform any surgery on a minor patient if there are no clear benefits to that child? These and other related questions are the core themes of this collection of essays.

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About the Author:

David Benatar is an associate professor and head of the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.


Cutting to the Core shows us how we need to think about some of the most disturbing forms of surgical intervention-interventions which are fervently desired by individuals, but which may do more harm than good. This compelling and highly accessible collection of essays establishes once and for all the importance of ethics for understanding the implications of medical practice. (Kathy Davis, author of Dubious Equalities and Embodied Differences: Cultural Studies on Cosmetic Surgery)

Several contributions stand out as exceptionally novel and insightful. (The New England Journal Of Medicine)

Prospective surgeons, along with other health professionals and the public, should read this book. (CHOICE)

Although the book was written primarily with surgeons in mind and is ideally suited to help them reflect on their own practices, its accessibility and openness to the contradictory realities of embodiment invite us all to think more critically about what we expect surgery to do for us and what the surgical elimination of embodied differences would mean for our sense of who we are, our interactions with one another, and the quality of our social lives. (Hastings Center Report)

Cutting to the Core is an interesting and enlightening book...I regard the book as a valuable addition to my bioethics library. (Andrew Brei, Purdue University Metapsychology Online)

We can remake ourselves. Or can we? This is the definitive collection of what happens when our and our children's identity goes under the knife. (Glenn McGee, Director, Alden March Bioethics Institute)

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