Performing body modification: punishable or own choice?

Martin Buijsen

Finding one's own body repulsive is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) syndrome. People suffering from BDD are increasingly undergoing body modification treatments. This kind of treatment can include creating a snake tongue by splitting the tongue, turning the ears into elf ears and injecting eyeballs with black ink. However, performing this kind of procedure is forbidden for doctors, so artists with no medical background do it. Martin Buijsen, Professor of Health Law at Erasmus School of Law, commented on this in De Telegraaf: "According to the law, these are citizens causing harm to another person's body."  

Undergoing extreme body modifications poses health risks. This is in part due to doctors who do not perform the treatments. In fact, doctors are not allowed to perform this kind of treatment because it violates the professional oath they have taken. In that oath, doctors declare that they will never harm anyone.  

Medically unauthorised persons    

Citizens who perform body modification treatments are thus not doctors and have no medical background. They are medically unauthorised and are punishable by law because they cause harm to another person's body. Buijsen says: "From a legal perspective, this can be seen as abuse." He argues that performing body modification treatments can even be considered aggravated assault in case the procedure cannot be undone. Besides performing body modification surgeries, it is also punishable for medically unauthorised persons to give someone a painkilling injection or suturing. These are acts that only a doctor or nurse is allowed to perform. Buijsen: "Someone who is not trained for this is not allowed to do this under any circumstances."   

Contract without legal value  

Medically unqualified people can offer contracts to people who want to undergo body modification. These contracts state that the persons themselves choose to undergo the procedure. In this way, the medically unauthorised persons want to exercise caution. However, Buijsen points out that such contracts have no legal value: "You agree to something that cannot bear the light of day." So, undergoing and performing body modification treatments does not come without risks. 




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