Monday, June 8, 2015

Body Autonomy

Parts of this blog have become a "Feminism 101" for STEM professionals, who most likely have not taken Women's Studies courses or significant Humanities classes. Today is one of those topics, inspired by an old, private Facebook discussion that has been deleted.  I'm starting off with body autonomy.


The simplest explanation of body autonomy, is the phrase "Your rights end where my nose begins."

Then there are medical ethics, which deals with these situations (unresponsive or unconscious patients, patient refusal, consent and informed consent) extensively. I'm not a medical ethicist by training. My education on this subject has been more theological / religious, mostly at the elementary and secondary levels. So I'll refer you to Google for more information applying this subject to your areas of interest.

For today, I continue to sidestep the hot-button feminist/political/medical topic where body autonomy is most applicable: reproductive justice. Maybe I'll get to that later this week, maybe not.

I've often seen people state online that nobody can be forced to donate blood. Even at/after death, one cannot be forced to donate one's organs if one has told their family they don't wish to.  My Google-Fu is failing to prove the negative, but generally affirms that a person who wishes to donate needs to tell their family that, and can/should register as an organ donor.

That touches on the Thou-Me side of body autonomy, that other peoples rights to my person and tissues are limited. (Although, having read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" over Memorial Day weekend, I can say that the for tissues that were *already* removed from your body as part of medical procedures, one's rights are more limited.)

There's also the "it's my body, I can do what I want" aspect of body autonomy, which primarily applies to adults. Children may be subject to their parent's consent on many of these matters.  These aspects overlap the concepts of medical consent, but also gets into rights like:
  • wearing contact lenses that change eye color
  • dying one's hair
  • getting a tattoo
  • getting body piercings
  • wearing or not wearing makeup
  • Dressing in ways that are comfortable, whether the clothing is revealing or concealing.
  • Eating whatever food one chooses and can afford.
Now, there are exceptions to this concept of "I can do whatever I want to my body." Self-harm has generally been considered wrong, and extreme self-harm is something that bystanders are encouraged-to- obligated to stop if they can.

Tomorrow (hopefully), I'll take the next step and discuss a bit on personal property.