Hymen 'restoration' in cultures of oppression: how can physicians promote individual patient welfare without becoming complicit in the perpetuation of unjust social norms?

Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (6):431-431 (2014)
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In this issue, Ahmadi1 reports on the practice of hymenoplasty—a surgical intervention meant to restore a presumed physical marker of virginity prior to a woman's marriage. As Mehri and Sills2 have stated, these women ‘want to ensure that blood is spilled on their wedding night sheets.’ Although Ahmadi's research was carried out in Iran specifically, this surgery is becoming increasingly popular in a number of Western countries as well, especially among Muslim populations.3 What are the ethics of hymen restoration?Consider the role of the physician. Two of the doctors interviewed by Ahmadi reported being in ‘a perpetual state of guilt because of the surgery's inherent aim at deceiving the groom’ and noted their ‘personal conflict’ at being involved in this deception. Yet: "None of the doctors believed that the surgery was unethical, arguing that the girl could be ‘abused’ and ‘can even die’ if she is discovered not … "
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