An unusual criminal investigation in London of high-profile doctors for female genital mutilation (FGM) has collapsed. FGM is usually carried out in secret amongst communities from the Middle East and Africa. However, this procedure was described in a medical journal and involved leading British physicians.
In 2011 a surgeon, Professor Joe Daniels, and a psychiatrist, Professor David Veale, published an article in The Archives of Sexual Behaviour about a clitoris removal operation on a 33-year-old Western patient. She had already had labia reduction surgery but still thought her genitals were “ugly” and “hated the look of them”. So Veale gave his approval as a psychiatrist and Daniels did the operation.
Upon reading the article, another academic, Professor Susan Bewley, was outraged and urged the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate because it appeared to breach the UK’s law banning FGM. However, surgery of this kind is permitted for medical or psychological reasons and eventually the police declared that there was no case to answer.
Professor Veale told the Evening Standard that he was utterly opposed to FGM.
“FGM and cosmetic surgery are completely different. To me it’s completely clear. FGM is an abhorrent practice conducted on girls against their consent motivated by a desire to control female sexuality, but [cosmetic genital surgery] is provided for adult women with capacity to consent and motivated by a desire to improve their appearance and sexuality. It’s no different to any other cosmetic surgery...Professor Bewley was disappointed, fearing that it might be impossible to prosecute over FGM:
“I don’t like the procedure. But the bottom line for me is freedom of choice. You have a freedom of choice if you have capacity for consent to do what you wish with your own body.”
“It makes a mockery of the law. It’s extraordinary. Despite the police having spent three years investigating, it’s puzzling that the CPS has decided against pressing charges. Does this mean all female cosmetic genital surgery, maybe even on minors, is exempt? The CPS decision-making looks inconsistent. Inevitably doctors are left confused and patient safety is unclear.”
Parramatta is just 20 minutes west of the BioEdge office. It’s not a city which has made a huge mark on the world, although not long ago an ISIS-inspired teenager shot dead a police employee and ended up dead himself. It has a lot of historic buildings from the colonial era, surrounded by high rise office buildings, drab shops and a huge park.
A few weeks ago the park hosted Tropfest, billed as the world’s largest short film festival. The crowds watched the films on huge screens as they picnicked on the grass. I was amazed that the winner was a 7-minute film about euthanasia, “The Mother Situation”. With excellent acting and snappy dialogue, it is a brilliant black comedy. Three adult children are delighted to hear that their mother wants to be euthanised – but then she changes her mind.
The director, Matt Day, says that it is not an anti-euthanasia film, but I haven’t seen anything which illustrates more vividly the danger of elder abuse. Sure, it’s absurd and a bit unrealistic but it sends a powerful message. Check it out.
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