[SydPhil] CAVE/Anthro Seminar: Verina Wild, "Only a small stitch? The ethics of hymen reconstruction"

Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics arts.cave at mq.edu.au
Wed Mar 15 14:21:28 AEDT 2017

Hi all,

The Macquarie University Research Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics (CAVE) and the Macquarie Anthropology Department are pleased to be co-hosting a seminar by Dr. Verina Wild (LMU), at the end of this month.

"Only a small stitch? The ethics of hymen reconstruction" by Verina Wild (LMU)

Date: Thursday 30 March 2017

Time: 10:30 - 12:30

Venue: W6A 107, Macquarie University (P12 on campus map<http://www.mq.edu.au/__data/assets/image/0010/183556/Campus-Map.png>)

All welcome, no registration required!


Hymen reconstruction surgery purporting to “restore virginity” is now available in many countries. Little clinical evidence supports the intervention, for which there are no surgical standards of practice and hardly any policy guidance. Nearly as scarce is social science research exploring women’s motivations to undergo the intervention, and health care professionals’ justifications for providing it.

The intervention and the role of health care professionals are ethically controversial, for example: Are physicians becoming accomplices of unjust social norms? Can this really be regarded as an autonomously chosen surgery? Is there a moral obligation for health care professionals to help vulnerable women in order to prevent further harm? Is there a moral obligation for health care professionals to help women pursue their future life plans by expanding spaces of autonomy? Which meaning do concepts such as “justice”, “autonomy” or “vulnerability” have in this case?

Together with a research team we have conducted interviews in Tunisia, trying to find out more about the stories of people involved in hymen reconstruction. Other interviews and data analysis of online requests for hymen reconstruction were undertaken in Germany and Switzerland.

In this paper I present selected empirical results. I will develop first steps of an ethical analysis that takes historical and socio-cultural aspects into account and that includes the voices of women who have undergone the surgery. The complexity of the ethical dimension will become obvious, impacting on potential attempts to develop policy.

About the speaker:

Dr. Verina Wild is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU), Germany and Affiliate Researcher at the Institute of Ethics, History and Theory, LMU. She held a position as Senior Teaching and Research Associate from 2008-2016 at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine at the University of Zurich. Before that she was a physician in internal medicine in Berlin, Germany. Her current research interests are theories of health justice; health of migrants and ethics; gender justice in health; and methods in ethical decision-making. Since 2009 she is engaged in her project on “Ethics of Hymen Reconstruction”, for which she conducted interviews in Tunisia, Germany and Switzerland.


Macquarie University Research Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics (CAVE)
Department of Philosophy
Macquarie University
Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
CAVE website: mq.edu.au/cave<http://cave.mq.edu.au>

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