Circumcision is NOT Necessary
The baby, Phil, is less than a day old. His tiny head still slightly misshaped, his eyelids puffy, his mouth half-open in his sleep. The nurse has taken him from his mother and is carrying him to another room in the pediatric ward. The nurse clicks on a white metal lamp with a twist of her fingers, removes the child from a cozy blue blanket, and lays him in a cold molded plastic form that is bolted tightly to the counter. This form fitting shell is called a Circumstraint. There are indentations for the baby’s arms and legs. The nurse methodically binds the secure restraining straps around his limbs, bends the flexible metal light over him and steps back. The baby is naked and spread-eagle, and he begins to cry. For many boys, life begins with circumcision, a painful cut to the sensitive skin on his penis. Is it necessary?
Every 30 seconds a baby boy is circumcised. It is the most common surgery performed in America. It is usually done without anesthesia, and often without the consent of the parents.
“I never questioned it,” says Mr. Theodore, the father of a circumcised boy. “The doctor took him away, performed the operation and brought him back. That’s just the way it was done. I was circumcised; he was circumcised. I don’t even remember signing a consent form.”
That’s typical, according to Craig Shoemaker, M.D., a North Dakota pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) task force on circumcision. “Many doctors do not adequately counsel parents regarding circumcision—what the risks are, what the potential benefits are, how much it costs. Performing a circumcision without such counseling is inappropriate. Some people would call it criminal assault.” Most parents don’t know what circumcision really is, and yet 65 percent of them still allow doctors to do the surgery.
America is the only country in the Western world that routinely circumcises newborn boys. Eighty-five percent of the world’s men are uncircumcised. “The practice violates all seven principles of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics,” charges George Denniston, M.D., a Seattle physician and founder of Doctors Opposing Circumcision. “By definition it’s not even surgery. Surgery is removal of diseased tissue, or a repair of some kind.” “Nonsense,” says Edgar Schoen, M.D., director of perinatal screening at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California, and an outspoken proponent of circumcision. “There are numerous medical reasons for it.” This pro and con argument has been raging in the medical community for almost three decades. Meanwhile, the circumcisions continue.
The doctor enters the room, scrubs his hands in the sink, and snaps on plastic gloves. The nurse passes him a package, and he opens it on the counter beside the child. Inside are several large, light blue cloth napkins; some squares of gauze; a squeeze-tube of Betadine (an antiseptic ointment); and an assortment of stainless-steel...