Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Kid's cage fighting - it should be banned, right? (987)

Taryn Knox 1 , Lynley Anderson 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, OTAGO, New Zealand

Cage-fighting (also known as Mixed Martial Arts) combines many elements of other combat sports, meaning the fighter can wrestle, kick, punch and so on. Cage-fighting is undeniably violent and has been compared to bar-room brawls and human cock-fighting. It is debatable whether adults ought to be free to engage in risky sport. Further difficulties arise regarding children’s participation in cage-fighting, as there is a tension between the parental right to make decisions on behalf of their child and the right of the child to be protected from harm. In the first part of the paper, we consider which standard or concept should be used to determine whether parental rights should be overridden. We propose that parents need not make decisions in the best interests of their child, but that parental decisions may only be overridden if they fall outside Gillam’s (2016) ‘Zone of Parental Discretion’ (ZPD) or unduly minimises a child's right to an open future (Feinberg 1980). The second part of the paper outlines a rubric (Anderson 2007) that determines whether an activity such as kid's cage-fighting  should be banned that considers both likelihood and severity of harm. Together, the two parts of the paper demonstrate that whether children’s cage-fighting should be banned requires much more analysis. Contrary to the title of this paper, perhaps kid’s cage-fighting should not be banned.

  1. Anderson, L. (2007). Doctoring risk: Responding to risk-taking in athletes. Sports, Ethics and Philosophy, 1(2), 119-134.
  2. Feinberg, J. (1980). The child’s right to an open future in whose child. Children’s rights, parental authority, and state power, 123-153.
  3. Gillam, L. (2016). The zone of parental discretion: an ethical tool for dealing with disagreement between parents and doctors about medical treatment for a child. Clinical Ethics, 11(1), 1-8.