Copy/paste: Circumcision, the ultimate parenting dilemma

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19072761
By Cordelia Hebblethwaite
BBC News, Washington DC

I only copy and pasted parts of this article. Below is the the entire article. Only segments of the article.

“While Europe increasingly questions the practice of circumcising boys, US paediatricians are about to say that the medical case for it is getting stronger. Most US adult men are circumcised, but the number of newborns having the op is falling, and is now below 50% in some states – intensifying the dilemma for parents.”

“”You are doing a procedure on someone who cannot make a decision for himself – it’s a difficult choice for both parents and physicians,” says Dr Marvin Wang, co-director of the Newborn Nurseries at Massachusetts General Hospital, who has conducted hundreds of circumcisions.

It is, he says, more a “cultural decision” than a medical one, and therefore, for parents to decide, while he advises on the pros and cons.

Wang says most parents come in with fervent beliefs – and what a doctor says makes little difference.

“The bottom line is… they stick to their guns. They choose the pieces of information that bolster their argument and run with that.”

“Circumcision rates vary wildly across the country – from more than 80% of newborns in states including Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kentucky, to around 20% on the West Coast, according to some calculations.”

“In the US, the popularity of circumcision dates back 140 years to Dr Lewis Sayre, one of the founders of the American Medical Association, says David Gollaher author of Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery.

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We think of scientists as very objective, but scientists are people”

Brian Earp
Medical ethicist
Sayre believed that many medical conditions had their root in a dysfunction in the genital area, and that circumcision could be used to treat a startling array of problems, from depression to mental health issues, syphilis and epilepsy.

Circumcision was also promoted as a way of discouraging masturbation, and was regarded as clean and hygienic. It was particularly popular among the higher classes, and was seen as a sign of being well-off enough to afford a birth at hospital rather than at home.

Sayre’s theories were later debunked, but not before being widely picked up in other English-speaking countries, in particular in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Gollaher says.

US troops also took male circumcision to South Korea after WWII, where it remains extremely popular.

In the UK, around one-third of men were circumcised just before the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948. But the newly-created NHS ruled that circumcision was not medically necessary, and therefore would not be covered. Rates plummeted after that, says Gollaher.

About 9% of men in the UK are now circumcised according to WHO figures (other estimates are slightly higher).

Meanwhile in the US, circumcision came to be so widespread, “it became part of how people viewed the normal body,” says Gollaher.

It had become a cultural norm, he says, transferred from generation to generation, from father to son, and from doctor to trainee – but it is a norm that is increasingly being challenged.

One reason for this is the greater emphasis worldwide given to the rights of the child, manifested most obviously in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in 1990.”

“For medical ethicists the question of circumcision has also shot up the agenda in recent years, says Raanan Gillon, former editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Any decision on the rights and wrongs of child circumcision has to balance the rights of the child, with the rights of the parents and the right to religious freedom – and the US puts considerable emphasis on the second and third of these.”

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