May 17, 2024


While self-mutilation and extreme body modification are frowned upon by most bioethicists, a Welsh academic contends in the journal Bioethics that there can be no convincing arguments against them, so long as there is informed consent. In other words, tongue splitting, amputations, flesh staplings and so on, should not be actively discouraged.

Thomas Schramme calls self-mutilation “an ultimate test-case for liberal bioethics” since it pushes the envelope of two of its key presumptions: anti-paternalism and neutrality. “The easy dismissal of the body modification community as a bunch of eccentrics or pathological cases ought to be rejected”.

Arguing from a libertarian perspective, Schramme says “bodily health is only one aspect of our well-being and probably not even the most important one. If people voluntarily choose to mutilate their flesh, we better assume that they take it to be in their interest.”