If Dignity Doesn’t Start With the Body, Then Where?

The Angry Black Woman wrote about a story where a surgeon is getting sued for putting a rub-on tattoo on the victim’s stomach (below the panty line, no less) while the victim was anesthetized. As the articlepoints out, for an operation on herniated discs, she would’ve been lying on her stomach, which meant that the surgeon had to flip her over to do it.

Back to karnythia at The Angry Black Woman, who makes many excellent points overall which definitely apply to the commentors of the original article who are shocked, shocked, that this woman would want to send a message to people who think this is OK, since the law leaves her little other recourse:

Somehow we’ve gotten stuck in this idea that a woman’s valuing of her body as a part of her self comes second because her first role is to belong to the world at large. Women who refuse to accept that paradigm and insist on being recognized as people first whether it be by yelling back at catcallers, refusing to let strangers touch them, or filing suit when they feel they’ve been violated are then castigated for having the temerity to think that they can dictate what happens to their bodies.

It boggles my mind that this has to be spelled out for people, but spelled out it is, and I’d like to add my agreement here – allowing for the inviolable right to self-determination, which we all are supposed to have here on this planet – starts with bodily autonomy. If we don’t have that, then we have nothing. This woman’s body, all people’s bodies, are theirs and theirs alone.

Of course, none of this is to say this surgeon is merely a sexist as many of the commenters seem to be: the fact that he’s done this before and remains fairly unapologetic points to some sociopathy as well – when your work involves essentially repairing a human body as a techonologist might re-solder some surface-mount ICs onto a damaged circuit board, dehumanization is pretty inevitable. The person’s unconscious, and in some surgeries, the heart is supposed to stop; the body becomes a task to complete, a damaged machine, not a real person. Perhaps the change needs to be made in medical ethics programs – not being a med student, I have no real knowledge of what many of these might entail, so it’s hard to say – or maybe we need to also stop enabling these kinds of behaviors because doctors are, after all, gods among men!

In summary, this is a problem of two parts – sexism in our society, specifically a lack of respect for bodily autonomy, coupled with enabling the behavior of those potential sociopaths with god complexes will allow these sorts of things to continue. While this person wasn’t physically harmed, that doesn’t make this behavior acceptable – such a person might, potentially, be motivated to take the behavior further when they stop seeing any ramifications as a consequence for their actions.

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2 Responses

  1. Jay, I hope you’ll address this issue as well!

  2. […] agree with everything Brown Shoes said: this is troubling because it is sexist, and also because it raises a deep concern about the […]

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