After reading extensively about circumcision, it is clear to me that the procedure is absolutely unecessary. The reported medical benefits of this surgery are constantly being called into question, and, even in the studies that claim to show a reduction in disease rate, the benefit is very small, usually just one or two percent. Also, UTIs and STDs don't seem to be more of a problem in Europe, where very fewer men are circumcised. Furthermore, medical studies of disease rates in circumcised vs. uncircumcised populations are really irrelevant when one examines the ethical issues involved in infant circumcision, which involves the removal of healthy, nondiseased, erogeneous tissue from a nonconsenting patient. It would be unthinkable to perform this surgery on female neonates in this country, even if the parents requested it. Doctors should not have the right to remove healthy, erogenous tissue from a baby's genitals for any reason, even if parents request it for "hygenic" or "social" reasons, or so that the baby "matches" his father. What the parents request is also irrelevant. The child's body is his own, and it is the duty of ethical doctors and nurses to protect him from harm while under their care. When a child becomes a consenting adult he will be able to choose circumcision himself, should he desire it. (Religious circumcision is a separate issue with its own ethical dilemmas.)
I was circumcised shortly after birth at the hospital. My circumcision has casued me countless hours of frustration and suffering. I first became aware of the problem, at puberty, when erections became extremely painful. the skin would tear and bleed, and my penis would feel extremely unconfortable, even when not erect. When I realized that the band around my penis was actually a scar, I was shocked. Later, in my twenties, I found sex to be highly overated. I didn't understand why it was supposed to be pleasureable. During this time, I started reading extensively about circumcision, and for the first time, realized that my radical circumcision was the cause of these problems.
I approached my HMO doctor with the problem, and requested surgery to relax the tension on the penile skin. He was very sympathetic and recommended that I have surgery, but informed me that USHealthcare would probably not cover it, even though the probem was clearly iatragenic. He referred me to a very good HMO Urologist, who examined me and confirmed my worst fears: yes, my problems were casued by lack of sensitive penile skin and a "tight" or "radical" circumcision. He recommened me as a good candidate for corrective surgery. USHealthcare, in spite of these recommendations, insists the problem is cosmetic, and will not pay for it.
If you look into the circumcision issue further, you will find that my case is not unusual. To get more information, you can read "Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma" by Romberg; "Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma" (just published; can't remember author) "The Joy of Uncircumcising" by Jim Bieglow, which has been tremendously helpful to me, and "Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy" by Edward Wallerstein.
Also, I would strongly encourage MD's reading this to check out DOC - Doctors Opposing Circumcision (http://weber.u.washington.edu/d60/gcd/) , an organization formed by doctors who question the ethics of routine neonatal circumcision. They have a good web site, and publish an online journal of peer-reviewed articles relevant to the circumcision debate. Finally, check out the "Fathering" (http://www.fathermag.com/circ/) web site's page on circumcision, especially the section on "botched" circumcisions and men's reactions to having been circumcised.
One last note- today it is possible for a man who has been harmed by circumcision to sue the doctor who performed it, during a two year period from the time when he first becomes aware of the damage. There are lawyers who specialize in circumcision law.
I would urge all medical professionals who read this to think seriously about the ethics of neonatal circumcision. Circumcising a child is serious business: the results are permanent and life-long. Circumcision has taken so much pleasure out of my life. I would urge you to learn from my example and stop subjecting children to something they didn't request and don't need.
J.M., May, 1997
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