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September 5, 2001

2002 John Conley Ethics Essay Contest for Medical Students

JAMA. 2001;286(9):1083. doi:

Often the cultural and moral sensibilities of a patient come into conflict with those of the physician. Participants in the 2002 John Conley Medical Ethics Essay Contest are asked to consider the following case.

"You are a surgeon trained in urogenital reconstruction. An 18-year-old female patient comes to you because she is returning to her home village in an African nation. She reports, and you believe, that upon return to her home, she will be obligated to undergo female circumcision. In her homeland, the procedure involves removal of the clitoris and part of the labia majora, and suturing of the vaginal opening, which leaves a small opening for menstruation. These procedures are typically performed in an unsterile field without anesthesia. Because she is concerned about pain and the risk of infection, she requests that you perform the procedure under sterile conditions before she returns home. Regardless of where it is performed, this form of female circumcision results in a permanent decrease in genital sensation, and causes bleeding during intercourse, with accompanying risk of infection. What are some ethical issues to consider as you decide whether to perform the surgery?"

Entries must be postmarked by February 1, 2002, and sent to Conley Essay Contest, c/o MSJAMA, 515 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610. The author(s) of the best essay(s) will be awarded $5000 or a portion thereof. More information about the contest is available online at http://www.msjama.org.

The judges for the 2001 John Conley Ethics Contest were Linda Emanuel, MD, Northwestern University School of Medicine; Thomas Duffy, MD, Yale University School of Medicine; and Norman Fost, MD, MPH, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.