The Slippery Slopes of Religious Freedom and Female Genital Mutilation

The American Academy of Pediatrics slipped on the slipperiest of ethical slopes when earlier this year it attempted to balance multi-culturalism with pragmatism and traditional medical ethics. The topic was the genital mutilation of young girls in a form of (so-called) “female circumcision” practiced by some Muslims, in which the clitoris is cut and mutilated in order to make future sexual activity less enjoyable, thus ensuring a female’s “virtue.” The AAP argued that its members could ethically agree to inflict a lesser “nick”—a ritual drawing of blood— to fulfill a patient’s parents’ request for the ritual cutting, because to do otherwise might lead to greater harm to a girl’s genitalia if the parents sought a full-fledged mutilation abroad or elsewhere.

This policy effectively repealed the ancient ethical standard of “First, do no harm” by employing the versatile rationalization, “If I don’t do it, someone else will.” Predictably, women’s rights advocates were horrified. Equality Now proclaimed in May… Continue reading

King Downloading Backlash: Randy and the Rationalizations

Ethics Alarms wasn’t the only one to challenge Randy Cohen’s embrace of illegal downloading in his “The Ethicist column last week. It caused a great deal of debate elsewhere, and , as usual, most of the tech heads sided with Cohen. Two of the most common arguments were endorsed by the excellent blog Tech Dirt. The first is the most popular, and the easiest to discard. The second is equally wrong, but explaining why takes longer. Continue reading