Why you can cut off someone’s foreskin but not their nipple

why you can cut off someones foreskin but not their nipple - Why you can cut off someone’s foreskin but not their nipple

IT MAY NOT come as a surprise that a defendant pleads guilty to three counts of grievous bodily harm when he goes by the name of Dr Evil. But the two-year case that ended on February 12th at Wolverhampton Crown Court was more morally complicated than it might sound. Dr Evil (aka Brendan McCarthy, 50) is a tattooist who also carries out body-modification procedures. The offences related to three bits of work: the removal of an ear, the removal of a nipple and the splitting of a tongue. All were carried out without anaesthetic or, indeed, surgical training. But the customers consented and were happy enough with the outcome.

So what’s the problem? In 1993 the House of Lords established—when considering the activities of a group of sadomasochists—that there must be “good reason” for consent to negate liability for injury. Considering the case of Dr Evil last year, the Court of Appeal explained that some activities (like contact sports) pass the “good reason” test because of their social benefit and others (like tattooing or circumcision) because it would simply be “unreasonable” to ban them.

Dr Evil argued that his work was akin to tattooing or piercing. But expert testimony from plastic surgeons detailed the damage it could do. The court was reluctant to create a new exception to the “good reason” test. That is a job for politicians, it argued. Dr Evil will be sentenced in March.

The case may push body modification out of tattoo parlours and into people’s homes, says Samantha Pegg of Nottingham Law School. Legislation detailing where the limits lie would help, she adds. If that is to happen, politicians will have to get their heads around concepts like “pearling” (genital beads) and “extraocular implants” (jewellery stuck in the eye). Until then, best not lop anything off.

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