Circumcision is one of the commonest surgical procedures performed on males. Opponents argue that infant circumcision can cause both physical and psychological harm, while recent evidence shows that circumcision is medically beneficial. Two doctors debate the issue in this weeks BMJ.
There is now rarely a therapeutic indication for infant circumcision, yet ritual (non-therapeutic) male circumcision continues unchecked throughout the world, long after female circumcision, facial scarification, and other ritual forms of infant abuse have been made illegal, writes Geoff Hinchley, a consultant at Barnet & Chase Farm NHS Trust.
The law and principles pertaining to child protection should apply equally to both sexes, so why do society and the medical profession collude with this unnecessary mutilating practise, he asks"
In addition to religious justification, there have been many spurious and now unsupported claims for circumcision including the prevention of penile cancer, masturbation, blindness, and insanity, most of which relate to adult sexual behaviour and not to the genital anatomy or best interest of a child, he adds.
There may be a case that male circumcision reduces HIV risk in sexually active adults, however the decision on whether an individual wishes to have this procedure should be left until they are old enough to make their own informed health care choices.
Male genital mutilation is not a risk-free procedure, he adds. Far from being a harmless traditional practice, circumcision damages young boys.
And in terms of legal protection, he argues that both the US and the UK legal systems discriminate between the sexes when it comes to protecting boys and girls from damaging ritual genital mutilation.
The unpalatable truth is that logic and the rights of the child play little part in determining the acceptability of male genital mutilation in our society, he writes. The profession needs to reco
|Contact: Emma Dickinson|
BMJ-British Medical Journal