I did not write this.
This is a research paper written by the student, Christianna Streeter, and then posted on thewholenetwork.org. Facebook page.
Circumcision: A Complete Rip-Off
Americans are one of the few cultural groups that will make the decision on whether they will electively circumcise their newborn sons. Elective circumcision, also known as non-therapeutic circumcision, is circumcision in which there is no medical necessity. Non-therapeutic infant circumcision is an understandably controversial topic. While proponents of infant circumcision argue that it is acceptable because of cultural acceptance and potential benefits such as a possible decrease in urinary tract infections, opponents argue that these are not warranted reasons for infant circumcision. However, non-therapeutic circumcision of infants, in fact, should not be performed.
Non-therapeutic infant circumcision should not be performed because it is not medically warranted. No major pediatric organization in the world recommends elective infant circumcision and the foreskin has a purpose. The American Association of Pediatrics state in their policy that “while there is scientific evidence to demonstrate the potential medical benefits of circumcision, the data are not sufficient to recommend routine use of the procedure in newborn males” (“Routine” 1). The Royal Australian College of Pediatrics also says, “The frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision” (“Circumcision” 5). Other pediatric medical organizations that do not recommend non-therapeutic circumcision include the Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons, Canadian Paediatric Society, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand. The pediatric medical organizations listed represent a small number of those who do not recommend non-therapeutic infant circumcision. Since no pediatric organization recommends non-therapeutic infant circumcision, it should not be performed.
Not only should non-therapeutic circumcision not be performed because it is not medically recommended, it should not be performed because the foreskin has a purpose. When a child is born without a foreskin, it is considered a birth defect. The foreskin was not a mistake and is a part of the human anatomy for a reason. The foreskin, or prepuce, is a part of both the male and female genitalia and it covers both the glans penis and clitoris (Cold 34). The foreskin has many functions including, but not limited to, protecting the glans against “urine, feces, and other types of irritation… it [foreskin] protects against infection and scarring of the urinary opening” (Schmitt, B.D ). The foreskin has many protective functions and one of them is the protection against bacterial and viral infections. The glands of the foreskin produce and secrete an enzyme known as lysozyme. Lysozyme is a part of the body’s immune system in that it protects against bacteria and viruses (Fleiss ). This role of protection is shattered with circumcision. Non-therapeutic circumcision should not be performed because it destroys the purpose and function of the foreskin.
Infant circumcision may also have undesirable physical and psychological effects. According to MD Christakis, circumcision complication rates are 1:476 circumcisions (248). It is estimated that 1 in 500,000 boys die from circumcision (Benatar in Fox 164).There are many other complications including, but not limited to, adhesions, hemorrhage, penile amputation and even death. Two out of every 100 circumcised infants will experience serious complications such as “seizure, heart attack, stroke, loss of penis, [or] death” (“Cut” ). Along with the aforementioned complications, circumcision has been found to alter the way the brain reacts to painful stimuli. The American Academy of Pediatrics confirms and acknowledges that circumcision affects a child’s response to pain. As a surgery, circumcision is described as “among the most painful performed in neonatal medicine” (Goldman 93). The AAP also states that it is “noted that circumcised infants exhibit a stronger pain response to subsequent routine immunization than do uncircumcised infants” (American 688). The researchers of the study concerning
immunization pain and circumcision concluded that “circumcision may induce long lasting changes in infant pain behavior” (Goldman 94). Circumcision is clearly an excruciatingly painful procedure and infants should not be forced to endure the procedure unnecessarily. Non-therapeutic circumcision should not be performed on infants because of the complications that ensue and the fact that it affects the infant’s response to pain.
Circumcision may also have a psychological, as well as physical, impact. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that there are behavioral changes such as increased irritability, varying sleep patterns, and changes in infant-maternal interactions after circumcision (Task 398). In the long run, circumcision may cause psychological issues, such as depression, in a teenager or adult. An example of the negative psychological impact of circumcision is the story of a twin boy that was published in Time magazine. After a circumcision complication that left his penis damaged beyond repair, doctors urged the parents to have the boy undergo reconstructive surgery to make him anatomically correct to a woman, and his parents raised him female. When the boy was older he was given hormone treatments and the procedure was considered a success by the medical community. This case led to doctors urging parents to opt for the same procedure when similar incidences occurred. As the boy grew older, he knew he was not really a female. He became depressed and wanted to commit suicide. Only after he became suicidal was his story told to him. The boy had a reconstructive surgery to again become a male (Gorman [1-3]). This boy’s story is one of many and it could have been avoided. Because of the potential psychological trauma, non-therapeutic circumcision should not be performed.
Routine circumcision violates a child’s right to his body in the fact that female circumcision is already illegal and it is a cosmetic procedure. Female circumcision was outlawed in 1997, yet male circumcision is still a cultural norm. The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995 states, “Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia mojora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both” (United ). Both males and females deserve the rights to their bodies. It is hypocritical to protect one gender from unnecessary genital surgery and not the other. According to Schultheiss, circumcision should not be allowed simply because of a cultural tradition and should be addressed ethically (24). The United States of America protects the rights of female children but not the rights of male children. Attorney for the Rights of the Child, Steven Svobaoda stated that “American society evidently finds it very difficult to accept the profound importance of protecting the genital integrity of, at minimum, all individuals below the age of consent” (Svoboda in Denniston 189). Males should be given the same protection as females, and infant circumcision should not be performed unnecessarily.
Perhaps the most important reason that non-therapeutic circumcision should not be performed is because of the ethical aspect of non-therapeutic circumcision. Non-therapeutic circumcision is classified as a cosmetic procedure. Infants have the right to not have a cosmetic procedure performed on his body without his consent. A cosmetic procedure is defined as, “Serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature, defect, or irregularity” (American ). When there is no medical indication for circumcision, and it is simply a body modification, it is considered a cosmetic procedure. No doctor would perform a cosmetic rhinoplasty or liposuction on an infant. Christine Schultheiss states in Penn Bioethics Journal; “There does not appear to be any way to justify cosmetic penile surgery if one rejects the ethicality of other types of cosmetic surgery for infants” (22-23). If every other cosmetic surgery is deemed unethical, so should non-therapeutic infant circumcision. Dr. G.J. Boyle states that “Among other requirements, they [doctors] are expected to respect the human rights of their child patients” (Boyle ).
In conclusion, circumcision should not be performed on infants unless there is a medical need. The end of non-therapeutic circumcision is near as fewer parents are opting for this procedure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the circumcision rate has dropped to 32.5%. (Rabin ) The drop in statistics is largely due to parents becoming more informed about the potential adverse outcomes of circumcision and the fact that it is not medically necessary. The imbedding of circumcision in American culture should be pushed aside because circumcision is not just a decision that is being made for the child, but for the man he will become.
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