We Need To Stop Circumcision

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In the weeks
ahead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and
the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are likely to publish a
recommendation that all infant boys undergo circumcision. This is
a huge mistake. Circumcision is an unnecessary procedure that is
painful and can lead to complications, including death. No organization
in the world currently recommends this. Why should we routinely
remove normal, functioning tissue from the genitals of little boys
within days of their birth?

The vast majority
of the world’s men, including most Europeans and Scandinavians,
are uncircumcised. And before 1900, circumcision was virtually nonexistent
in the United States as well – except for Jewish and Muslim
people, who’ve been performing circumcisions for thousands of years
for religious reasons. Believe it or not, circumcision was introduced
in English-speaking countries in the late 1800s to control or prevent
masturbation, similar to the way that female circumcision –
the removal of the clitoris and labia – was promoted and continues
to be advocated in some Muslim and African countries to control
women’s sexuality.

Routine female
circumcision, which has been practiced in some cultures, is completely
unacceptable. Few people would argue otherwise. In fact, the United
Nations has issued a decree against it. Circumcision is a form of
sexual abuse whether it’s done to girls or boys. We justify male
infant circumcision by pretending that the babies don’t feel it
because they’re too young and it will have no consequences when
they are older. This is not true. Women who experience memories
of abuse in childhood know how deeply and painfully early experiences
leave their marks in the body. Why wouldn’t the same thing apply
to boys?

In medical
school, I was taught that babies couldn’t feel when they were born
and therefore wouldn’t feel their circumcision. Why was it, then,
that when I strapped their little arms and legs down on the board
(called a "circumstraint"), they were often perfectly
calm; then when I started cutting their foreskin, they screamed
loudly, with cries that broke my heart? For years, in some hospitals,
surgery on infants has been carried out without anesthesia because
of this misconception!

Medical
Myths

From the 1980s
through today, as the tide has been turning against male circumcision,
misleading medical information has begun to surface (yet again)
in support of circumcision. This information supports the belief
that men with foreskins are more likely to get viral or bacterial
infections and pass them on; that the foreskin is tender and thin,
and therefore more prone to tiny cuts through which germs can be
transmitted. New justifications, such as circumcision to prevent
penile and cervical cancer, too often receive the blessing of the
medical establishment. But these are justifications that science
has been unable to support. Nor is there any scientific proof that
circumcision prevents sexually transmitted diseases.

This includes
the recent studies done in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda by Ronald
H. Gray, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He recently reported
that men who were circumcised were less likely by half to contract
HIV virus and less likely by one-third to become infected with HPV
and herpes.

While this
sounds promising, I agree with my colleague George Denniston, M.D.,
who said, "The United States has high rates of HIV and the
highest rate of circumcision in the West. The "experiment"
of using circumcision to stem HIV infection has been running here
for decades. It has failed miserably. Why do countries such as New
Zealand, where they abandoned infant circumcision 50 years ago,
or European countries, where circumcision is rare, have such low
rates of HIV?"

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the rest of the article

February
27, 2010

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