THE NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RIGHT TO BODILY INTEGRITY
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 August 2017
This article seeks to explain and explore the concept of bodily integrity. The concept is often elided with autonomy in the case law and the academic literature. It argues that bodily integrity is non-reducible to the principle of autonomy. Bodily integrity relates to the integration of the self and the rest of the objective world. A breach of it, therefore, is significantly different to inteference in decisions about your body. This explains why interference with bodily integrity requires justification beyond what will suffice for an interference with autonomy. It also explores how this understanding of bodily integrity assists in understanding disability, gender and separated bodily material.
- Copyright © Cambridge Law Journal and Contributors 2017
Exeter College, Oxford.
Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
1 R. (on the application of Justin West) v The Parole Board  EWCA Civ 1641;  1 W.L.R. 705, at , per Hale L.J. in her dissenting judgment.
2 Parkinson v St. James NHS Trust  EWCA 530;  Q.B. 266.
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5 Other reasons, such as the need to ration health care resources, are at play here.
6 R. (on the application of Burke) v GMC  EWCA Civ 1003;  Q.B. 273, at .
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13 Evans v Amicus Healthcare Ltd.  EWCA Civ 727;  Fam. 1.
15 R. (on the application of Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice  EWCA Civ 961;  1 A.C. 657 (upheld on appeal:  UKSC 38;  A.C. 657).
17 Connolly v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust  EWHC 1339 (QB).
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19 The Mental Health Trust v DD  EWCOP 4.
22 Airedale NHS Trust v Bland  A.C. 789 (HL).
25 Sexual Offences Act 2003, s. 79(2).
26 R. v Kalam  EWCA Crim 452.
28 R. v Rodgers  1 S.C.R 554, at .
29 In Ashley v Chief Constable of Sussex Police  UKHL 25;  1 A.C. 962, at , it was stated in obiter that for the purposes of battery there is no need to show that the victim “suffered anything other than the infringement of [their] right to bodily integrity”.
30 JCC v Eisenhower  Q.B. 331.
31 R. v Brown  1 A.C. 212.
32 An extended discussion of this case can be found in Herring, J., “R. v Brown (1993)” in Handler, P., Mares, H. and Williams, I. (eds.), Landmark Cases in Criminal Law (Oxford, 2017)Google Scholar.
33 The case could also be seen as a debate over the relationship between autonomy and dignity, a topic which requires a more extensive discussion than is possible here.
34 XCC v AA  EWHC 2183 (COP), at .
35 The offence of inflicting injury without a weapon under s. 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 has a seven-year maximum sentence. The offence wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm under s. 18 carries a maximum sentence of life.
36 YLA v PM and MZ (2003) 35 EHRR 1, at .
37 McFarlane v Tayside Health Board  2 A.C. 59 (HL), 107G, per Lord Millett.
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46 Pretty v UK ECHR 2002-III 155, at , citations omitted.
47 YF v Turkey (Application no. 24209/94) (ECtHR, 22 July 2003).
48 Price v UK ECHR 2001-VII 153, 169, per Judge Greve.
49 Art. 3 of the EU Social Charter is even more explicit in protecting bodily integrity: “Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.”
50 Gäfgen v Germany  ECHR 759 (Application no. 22978/05); (2010) 52 EHRR 1 (1 June 2010).
51 (1999) 27 EHRR 611.
52 See e.g. Beauchamp, T.L. and Childress, J.F., Principles of Biomedial Ethics, 7th ed. (Oxford 2013), 101–02Google Scholar; K. 1, “Autonomy and the Subjective Character of Experience” (2000) 17 J.Appl.Philos. 71; Mackenzie, C. and Rogers, W., “Autonomy, Vulnerability and Capacity: A Philosophical Appraisal of the Mental Capacity Act” (2013) 9 Int.J.Law Context 37, at 42CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Christman, J., “Autonomy, Self-Knowledge, and Liberal Legitimacy” in Christman, J. and Anderson, J. (eds.), Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays (Cambridge 2005), 330, 332–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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61 Dempsey, M. Madden, “Victimless Conduct and the Volenti Maxim: How Consent Works” (2013) 7 Crim. Law and Philos. 11, at 20Google Scholar: “This is B's decision. He's an adult and can decide for himself whether he thinks the risk is worth it. In considering what to do, I will assume that his decision is the right one for him. After all, he is in a better position than I to judge his own well-being.”
62 Carman, Merleau-Ponty, p. 81: “But suppose body and experience are not just causally connected, but identical.”
63 Kant, I., Lectures on Ethics (first published 1920, trans. Louis, I., London 1963), 147–48Google Scholar: “… our life is entirely conditioned by our body, so that we cannot conceive of a life not mediated by the body and we cannot make use of our freedom except through the body”.
65 Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, p. xii: “… there is no inner man, man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself”.
66 Carman, Merleau-Ponty, p. 141: “Merleau-Ponty's alternative account rests on a recognition of the bodily medium of social perception, a medium common to myself and others, and which always already constitutes us as a community prior to our application of concepts such as mind and consciousness, which abstract from the bodily character of the person they describe” (emphasis added); Wall, Being and Owning, pp. 63–64.
69 Wall, Being and Owning, pp. 145–55. See p. 149: “To succeed in a claim for assault, battery, or unlawful detention, it is sufficient to show that there was the threat or the application of force to the body or the deprivation of the free movement of the body. The interference with the right to bodily integrity is itself sufficient for an action, without having to show a loss derived from the interference.”
70 Re A (Conjoined Twins)  Fam. 147, 258, per Walker L.J.
71 Feldman, Civil Liberties, p. 241.
72 This may also explain the difficulty in handling cases of deception in relation to sexual acts. See J. Herring, “Mistaken Sex”  Crim.L.R. 511; contrast H. Gross, “Rape, Moralism and Human Rights”  Crim.L.R. 220. In part the difficulty is that there is a vast arrays of understanding a sexual act that there no clear reference point in determining whether a deception goes to the “nature of the act” or is additional information. While the distinction might be widely accepted, what constitutes the nature of a sexual act is much more problematic.
73 Montgomery  UKSC 11;  1 A.C. 1430, at .
75 Mental Health Trust v DD  EWCOP 4.
76 We recognise there is some debate over whether a person who has lost capacity can still retain autonomy. We will not enter that debate here.
77 XCC  EWHC 2183 (COP), at .
78 R. (on the application of Nicklinson)  EWCA Civ 961;  1 A.C. 657, at .
79 Shakespeare, T., Disability Rights and Wrongs (Abingdon 2006)Google Scholar provides a helpful introduction to the extensive literature on the nature of disability.
80 Solomon, A., Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner 2012), ch. 2Google Scholar.
85 Herring, J., “The Law and the Symbolic Value of the Body”, in van Klink, B., van Beers, B. and Poort, L. (eds.), Symbolic Legislation Theory and Developments in Biolaw (Dorecht 2016)Google Scholar.
86 We have in mind here a face removed for transplant.
87 Price ECHR 2001-VII 153, 169, per Judge Greve.
89 R. (on the application of Justin West)  EWCA Civ 1641;  1 W.L.R. 705, at , per Hale L.J. in her dissenting judgment.