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The Time To Rethink Male Circumcision Is Now, Group Says In Launching


NEW YORK, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Parents, pediatricians and health and human rights activists today announced the launch of INTACT AMERICA and its website -- -- to change how America thinks about male circumcision. The national campaign argues that painful and medically unnecessary surgery to remove healthy genital tissue from non-consenting baby boys violates medical ethics and human rights.

They were joined by Soraya Mire, the Somali filmmaker who is a global leader in the fight against forced female circumcision.

"The same universal human right to an intact body that I have fought for on behalf of women and girls must apply to boys as well, especially those too young to make an informed decision about the integrity of their bodies," said Mire. "How can it be wrong to surgically alter the genitals of a baby girl without her consent but okay to surgically alter the genitals of a baby boy?"

The launch comes as the Centers for Disease Control considers whether to recommend circumcision based on African studies of adult males and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"Studies of adult men in Africa cannot be used to justify subjecting non-consenting American baby boys to irreversible surgery that will remove healthy tissue from their genitals for the rest of their lives," said Georganne Chapin, Intact America's Executive Director. "Let young men make decisions about their own bodies, when they reach an age to understand the risks and consequences."

"Before subjecting their newborn sons to painful, risky, irreversible and medically unnecessary genital surgery, parents should ask if they would do the same to their daughters," said Chapin.

Chapin was joined by pediatrician Dr. Robert Van Howe, Clinical Professor at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, and his wife, Dr. Michelle Storms, a family practice physician and Assistant Professor at the medical school.

"The child is the patient, not the parent, and neonatal circumcision is definitely not in the patients' best interest," said Dr. Van Howe. "As an adult, I can say yes or no based on informed consent. An infant obviously cannot do that."

Dr. Storms, who is also Research Director in the MSU Family Medicine Residency Program, stopped performing circumcisions in 1988.

"I realized I was cutting off healthy tissue from a baby that couldn't say no," said Dr. Storms. "I wasn't treating or diagnosing disease. It violated everything I was taught in medical school about my obligation to heal the sick and do no harm."

Texas businessman Dean Pisani made a $1 million commitment to Intact America after he and his wife, who did not know their children's gender before their births, were pressured by Illinois doctors to perform a circumcision if they had a son.

"My wife and I did our research and could find no rational or persuasive argument to subject a baby to surgery that had no medical benefit," said Pisani. "No doctor could substantiate the medical necessity to perform the surgery. The pressure was both inappropriate and indefensible."

Male circumcision is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States, the only industrialized nation (other than South Korea) that continues to circumcise a majority of boys for non-religious reasons.

"If circumcision were effective in preventing HIV infection, the U.S.'s high circumcision rate would yield a lower HIV rate," said Chapin. "But America's HIV rate is higher than other industrialized nations with low circumcision rates. The only reliable means of preventing sexual transmission of HIV remains abstinence or use of a condom."

Approximately 75% of the world's men are not circumcised and remain intact throughout their lives. Even in America, the circumcision rate has dropped from 85 percent to under 60 percent as parents learn facts that have long gone unexamined. Intact America is promoting awareness of the male foreskin's value as a normal, sensitive and functional body part, protecting the penis from injury and contamination, and playing a role in sexual pleasure due to its specialized nerve endings and lubricating function.

Doctors began routinely circumcising infant boys late in the 19th century to combat alleged evils linked to masturbation. Claims that circumcision prevents various diseases -- including, recently, sexually transmitted diseases -- have been found to be mistaken or exaggerated.

Most circumcisions, which take up to 15 minutes, involve strapping an infant to a molded board. In some cases, an analgesic is applied to the pubic area, but many are performed without pain control. The foreskin is forcibly separated from the head of the penis with a metal instrument, and then cut off.

In addition to pain and the wound's exposure to urine and feces contamination, complications include abnormal bleeding, infection, scarring from removing too much skin or, in rare cases, removal or loss of the entire penis. A family in Georgia recently won a $2.3 million judgment after a botched circumcision removed a third of their son's healthy penis. More than 100 deaths annually are linked to circumcision complications.

No professional medical authority recommends routine circumcision, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says any benefits are insufficient to justify recommending it. Sixteen states refuse Medicaid coverage of non-medically-necessary circumcisions. Nationally, annual costs related to circumcision exceed $1 billion.

SOURCE Intact America
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