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Should people be allowed to do what they want to their own bodies?

For example tattoos, self-harm or taking drugs that are harmful to health. The question ignores the question of external effects, so for example we should not debate here for or against a smoking ban due to second-hand smoke deaths. That is another question. The question is, should people be allowed to do what they want to their OWN bodies, ASSUMING that it has no effect on others.

All the Yes points:

  1. Since the body is not the property of others
  2. Concerns above and beyond the physical body.
  3. aesthetic reasons
  4. The Right To Express Ones Self

All the No points:

  1. It can be selfish
  2. Not everyone is able to make informed decisions
  3. it’s extremely hard to make sure that what a person does on himself has no effects on others

Since the body is not the property of others

Yes because…

People have a right to do what they like to their own bodies – if it belongs to anyone, it is theirs, certainly not anyone else’s. Therefore only they should be allowed to do whatever they like to it.

John Stuart Mill

In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.[[ Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. London: Longman, Roberts & Green, 1869; Bartleby.com, 1999. http://www.bartleby.com/130/ 2nd October, 2009, Chapter 1, paragraph9, ]]

No because…

Who says the body is not the property of others? Perhaps that body could mean more to people around them than to the person who inhabits it.

According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau people do not have rights like that, to become part of a society (as in social contract theory) and reap the benefits of it such as protection under laws they give up certain freedoms; they simply do what the majority of people say is right:
Jean Jacques Rousseau
The heart of the Idea of the social contract may be stated simply: Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will; and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole.

In order that the social contract may not be a mere empty formula, everyone must understand that any individual who refuses to obey the general will must be forced by his fellows to do so. This is a way of saying that It may be necessary to force a man to be free; freedom in this case being obedience to the will of all.


Concerns above and beyond the physical body.

Yes because…

I may have an important and legitimate reason for harming my body, something I feel outweighs the pain I cause myself. For instance, I may be seeking spiritual enrichment through mortification of the flesh, or I might just feel that the ends justify the means – for instance, missing a few nights of sleep to get an essay finished on time. Why should someone else who has totally different beliefs and values to me and doesn’t understand why I don’t value my physical shell get to dictate to me what I can and can’t do with it?

Why is a view of someone with a different psychological make-up and philosophy to the accepted norm (by the majority, who aren’t always right) automatically ‘irrational’? What would you do if it really turned out hitting yourself with a hammer sent you to heaven?

No because…

Because when you do decide to miss out on a few nights sleep, you’re being irrational, because you knowingly are hurting your self physically, but you’re still staying up. Having said so, when you can’t be rational about a specific subject, someone has to step in (i.e: the government) and stop you, because as a citizen you’re their responsibility. The utilitarian decision you made seems only “legitimate” to you, but you wouldn’t know because you’re causing self-inflected harm in real time, thus you’re irrational, thus you’re opinion is disregarded, so for example if you decide that you want to hit yourself with a hammer because you think it will send you to heaven, you should be stopped by a police officer, why? because you’d simply be too irrational thus being a danger to yourself and possibly to others.

This is also one of the reasons we’re not too accepting of suicide bombing, think about it, suicide bombing is a form of utilitarianism as well- should we universally deem it acceptable because outcome (paradise for the suicide bomber) justifies the means (blowing his self up)

aesthetic reasons

Yes because…

beautifier their body
correct a defect

No because…

yes but everyone is beautiful in their own way. sure some people might think someone is ugly but that doesnt mean that the person their calling ugly thinks that they are ugly.

The Right To Express Ones Self

Yes because…

its a right to do what we want with our own bodies. if people wanna cut their hair we let them, if people wanna wear makeup we let them, if people want to get piercings we let them. so why is it such a big deal for people to get tattoos if their sure they want them?

No because…

It can be selfish

No because…

Harming one’s own body can cause unfair pain to loved ones and this should be prevented where unjustifiable.

You cannot presume that harming your own body will not affect others. No doubt if you grow up in a family home where one or both parents are, for example, taking drugs it is going to affect you, possibly in negative ways.

Furthermore, extreme cases of self-harming or drug taking can lead to the death of the individual involved. Surely it would be niave and unfair to suggest this would not affect others?

Therefore how you trat your own body can have an impact on others and to not consider this would be very selfish.

Yes because…

Harming your body can cause pain to your family yes, but getting a tattoo or a piercing doesnt. cutting yourself or trying to kill yourself would most likely cause pain to your family. but only depressed people cut themselves and try to kill themselves

Not everyone is able to make informed decisions

No because…

In this motion you have failed to say to whom this would apply? I must therefore assume that ALL people should be allowed to treat their bodies as they wish.

I can therefore infer that children would be allowed these sorts of rights.

Do you really suggest that children should be allowed to take drugs, get tattoos and self-harm? And what about those who are mentally unwell?

For those people in society who are unable to make informed decisions, to legally be able to treat their bodies in any way they wish would surely be devastating! In these cases, others would have to make the decision for them. So why not the state?

Yes because…

yes but if kids arent allowed to do something they usally do it any ways. i have a bunch of friends who are only 14 and they have tattoos. i have some friends who are my age and they do drugs. i even have friends who do self harm. weve tried to make them stop but THEY KEEP GOING BEHIND OUR BACKS AND DO I T ANY WAY! so no matter what the law is or what people say it is people are gonna do it any way.

it’s extremely hard to make sure that what a person does on himself has no effects on others

No because…

Generally, people can not live isolately as they have a lot of relationship and contacts with others. intentionally or unintentionally, their actions may have less or more effect on others. Imagine how a mum feel when seeing her child takes drugs or do something harmful to his health? Furthermore, what a leader or influential person does often have great impact on other people. It can lead to copy-cat or imitation.

Yes because…

This is true, however there are some cultures and religions that believe that things such as piercings and scarification that cleanse the body. It is a ritual doing and in doing so the family are fully aware of the nature of the effect on the body. This can be seen as a the ‘copycat’ attitude that so often influences those to change their body however in this case it is a form of ritual. Being a ritual does it mean that we can make decisions on whether it is wrong or right? Do we have the ability to understand the idea of cleansing through the adaptation and manipulation of the body? No. We can see it as wrong or right but ultimately we have complete power over our own bodies.

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Abubaker Elsadig
5 years ago

No they shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want because society needs healthy people without tattoos or anything else and if people had the right to do what they want they will do something that will harm the society, other wise cultures and religions won’t allow anyone to harm themself ,even it’s morally unacceptable.

4 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Given that a person’s harm or habit it only confined to them, and doesn’t harm others in the time being they should be able to do so. Saying that it would harm their family isn’t relative, cause they’re only harming you emotionally and you as a friend or family member don’t have a right to not get emotionally hurt. It happens in our lives on a regular bases. That person isn’t physically hurting anyone, therefore not hurting society. Hurting the individual, but society not so much. Everything is relative to those that aren’t in another’s shoes.

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