Should We Prohibit Breast Implants? Collective Moral Obligations in the Context of Harmful and Discriminatory Social Norms

Journal of Practical Ethics, Volume 3, Issue 2, December 2015

24 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2016  

Jessica Laimann

University of Oxford, Students

Date Written: December 30, 2015

Abstract

In liberal moral theory, interfering with someone’s deliberate engagement in a self-harming practice in order to promote their own good is often considered wrongfully paternalistic. But what if self-harming decisions are the product of an oppressive social context that imposes harmful norms on certain individuals, such as, arguably, in the case of cosmetic breast surgery? Clare Chambers suggests that such scenarios can mandate state interference in the form of prohibition. I argue that, unlike conventional measures, Chambers’ proposal recognizes that harmful, discriminatory norms entail a twofold collective moral obligation: to eliminate the harmful norm in the long run, but also to address unjust harm that is inflicted in the meantime. I show that these two obligations tend to pull in opposite directions, thus generating a serious tension in Chambers’ proposal which eventually leads to an undue compromising of the second obligation in favor of the first. Based on this discussion, I develop an alternative proposal which, instead of prohibiting breast implant surgery, offers compensation for the disadvantages suffered by individuals who decide not to have surgery.

Keywords: Medical Ethics, Ethics, Plastic Surgery, Social Norms

Suggested Citation

Laimann, Jessica, Should We Prohibit Breast Implants? Collective Moral Obligations in the Context of Harmful and Discriminatory Social Norms (December 30, 2015). Journal of Practical Ethics, Volume 3, Issue 2, December 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2711648

Jessica Laimann (Contact Author)

University of Oxford, Students ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

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