But Kirsten Patrick of the BMJ argues that, if competently performed, circumcision carries little risk and cannot be compared with female circumcision.
Although any surgical operation can be painful and do harm, the pain of circumcision, if done under local anaesthesia, is comparable to that from an injection for immunisation, she writes.
In terms of evidence of benefit, male circumcision has been associated with a reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as human papilloma virus, chancroid and syphilis. Robust research has also shown that circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV.
And although the complication rate for infant circumcision is essentially unknown (because most operations are unregistered) data suggest that it is between 0.2% and 3%, with most complications being minor. Furthermore, she says, no robust research exists examining the long term psychological effects of male infant circumcision.
Despite the fact that no medical body advocates routine male infant circumcision, most agree that it is safe and acceptable and recommend that the procedure is carried out by a competent operator using adequate anaesthesia.
Male circumcision is not illegal anywhere in the world. It is a choice that parents will make on behalf of their male children, for cultural or other reasons, and regulating its provision is the wisest course of action, she concludes.
An accompanying clinical review concludes that medical indications for male circumcision in both childhood and adulthood are rare, but that complications can be drastic.
|Contact: Emma Dickinson|
BMJ-British Medical Journal