1 The child’s right to bodily integrity Brian D. Earp Précis In this chapter, an infringement of bodily integrity (BI) is defined as any penetration into a bodily orifice, breaking of the skin, or alteration of a person’s physical form. A violation of a person’s right to BI is any infringement of their BI that wrongs them. An autonomous person is wronged by an infringement of their BI if they did not consent to it. If a person is incapable of consenting because they are temporarily non-autonomous – as in the case of an intoxicated adult or a pre-autonomous child – the infringement should be delayed until the individual becomes autonomous and can make their own decision. It is only when the infringement cannot be delayed without putting the person into a situation they would be even less likely to consent to (if they were autonomous) that the infringement does not wrong them. Given the seriousness of violating anyone's right to BI, and especially that of the most vulnerable persons, the appropriate likelihood-of-consent for proceeding with a BI infringement on a child is argued to be at or near the ‘medically necessary’ threshold. NOTE: THIS IS A PREVIEW OF THE CHAPTER; THE PUBLISHER HAS NOT ALLOWED PRE-PRINT POSTING OF THE FULL CHAPTER. PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHOR FOR THE FULL CHAPTER @ [email protected] . Introduction Suppose you are a healthy adult, minding your own business, and a stranger comes along and cuts you with a knife. Not badly – just a little slice out of your arm, let’s say – but enough to draw blood. If you did not consent to this, it seems obvious that this stranger has seriously wronged you. In fact, you might say you have a right against other people intentionally cutting you (or otherwise crossing your physical boundaries) without your consent, no matter how mildly. This is sometimes expressed as a right to ‘bodily integrity.’ i Let’s say that bodily integrity (BI) refers to the physical state of being all in one piece, unbroken, undivided, intact. So, skin puncturing of any kind would negate this. What about borderline cases, like if I jam my finger in your ear? I’d have entered your bodily sphere, in some sense, and if you don’t want my finger there, I am most likely wronging you in some way. But it isn't clear whether I am actually infringing This is the author’s copy of a published book chapter. This version may be cited as follows: Earp, B. D. (2019). The child’s right to bodily integrity. In D. Edmonds (Ed.). Ethics and the Contemporary World (pp. 217-235) . Abingdon, UK and New York, USA: Routledge.
2 on your ‘bodily integrity’ as we have defined it. So let’s just stipulate that any intentional (or negligently accidental) penetration into a bodily orifice, breaking of the skin, or alteration of your physical form, counts a BI infringement.