Male circumcision is a kindness to future sexual partners
By Joel Moskowitz, M.D.
SAN DIEGO — At a recent meeting of the Obstetrics and Gynecologic Society in the San Diego Convention Center, those entering were confronted by a myriad of anti-circumcisIon signs held by young males and females:
“Circumcision is Unnecessary”
A photo of a young baby boy “You’re gonna cut off what?!”
“Circumcision amputates 75% of penile nerves and 100% of the most erogenous”
“Sex Criminals for Hire…Inquire Within”
“Medical Circumcision is a fraud.”
One young man argued that a Federal Law in 1996 prohibited circumcision. (He wore a T shirt with the inscription “Bay Area Intactivists.”)
Within the last year, there was a movement to ban circumcision in San Francisco. It was silenced but apparently it is still alive. As the Chief of Pediatrics in the U.S.A.F., at my base, it was my responsibility to perform circumcisions. I didn’t advocate or discourage the practice. There was only a small Jewish contingent and most of the circumcisions I performed were requested by non-Jewish parents. If the boy were Jewish, I said the appropriate prayers. In every other respect, the procedure was the same.
It is true that I didn’t have the voluntary consent of the infant male. That is the criticism of those against circumcision (vide supra – “You’re gonna cut off what?” Parents make decisions for their children in many facets.
Take this food; wear these shoes; you need this vaccination etc etc etc.
Are parents right to usurp the privilege of running one’s life? If they do it with the best available medical information and in the best interests of the child – Yes!
Religion aside, you might argue that circumcision doesn’t have to be done in infancy. Then a dialogue with the boy might provide an opportunity for discussion about the pros and cons. That might result in a legal conundrum. What age would be deemed appropriate as the age for decision? With sexual adventures occurring younger and younger, it might be too late to maximize the benefits of excising the prepuce.
What is a minor surgical procedure for a baby, for a teen ager or older male, would require an Operating Room. It is true that we cannot be certain of the traumatic effects on an eight-day old baby who only (in the religious rite) has drops of Kosher wine to sooth him. I would be skeptical of anyone who would say that he recalls his circumcision as an infant. With teen or adult circumcision, you can bet that they remember the anxieties.
Although the focus of criticism was mainly directed at circumcision of males, the protestors expressed negative opinions about female circumcision as well. On the other hand, should an adult decide to be circumcized that would be okay with these protestors.
The assertion that circumcision amputes 75% of penile nerves and that 100% of the most erogenous is exciting but unproven. Infection which may be minor can lead to sepsis, gangrene or worse. As with any surgical procedure, hemorrhage may be a complication. There is also the potential of mutilating the penis with resultant deformity or some surgical mishap requiring partial amputation of the penis. Then rubbing of the diaper possibly will excoriate the glans and/or create an irritation of the urethra which may lead to narrowing/obstruction. Statistics on the frequency of these misadventures are not available. But those opposed to circumcision declaim what in their minds is an unnecessary and dangerous procedure.
As part of my medical experience, I was a hospital epidemiologist. That involves the study and prevention of diseases spreading through populations. My opinion is that circumcision may be an aid in preventing the transmission of AIDS as well as cancer of the cervix.
As our culture countenances sexual adventures for younger and younger partners, if parents would want to wait until their son arrives at age 18, it may be too late, both for heterosexuals and homosexuals. Before the parents will be aware of their son’s sexual orientation. It may be too late as regards the covert spread of HIV and/or human papilloma virus (associated with cervical cancer). A Hopkins study found that circumcised males are less likely to develop genital herpes.
The rationale that everyone should have control of their bodies and their lives fails if the timing will endager others.
Then there is the other ‘logic’.
A group “Intact America” based in New York and backed by a pro-intact Texas millionaire disagrees with the argument that circumcised males are less likely to transmit HIV. Studies are based on information that this is so in Africa. The Intact America counters that many Christians and Muslims are pious and therefore unlikely to engage in rampant sex. So, they say, the lower incidence in circumcised males is misleading
Their web site has quotes from rabbis against circumcision.
An example follows from Rabbi Nathan Segal, Rabbi of Shabbos Shul, who wrote “One Rabbi’s Thoughts about Circumcision”: “I believe circumcision is a major mistake… Just as we no longer practice the animal sacrifices in the traditional temple, so let us not sacrifice an important piece of of our mammal in the temple of tradition.” He allows that if we must, a pin prick producing a drop of blood should suffice as compliant with the ritual.”
A spokesman for Intact America said: “Why would you want to lose a healthy pleasurable body part? We don’t cut off people’s fingertips and say, “That way they won’t get ingrown nails. It’s absurd.” Some states have discontinued Medicaid payments for circumcision. The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics have an ambiguous position favoring circumcision. They waffle indica ting the evidence is ‘complex and confusing’ as to the benefits of male circumcision. But the U.S. public has made up its mind. Various statistics show a decline from 80% of newborn male circumcision to about 50% (static for the last several years). The reasons are unclear.
Those against circumcision, especially of infants who cannot give consent, either don’t believe the medical trials where circumcision has been shown to be a health measure or nevertheless consider the procedure a cruel attack on an infant.
Doubtless devout Jewish and Muslims will continue the practice. And the anti-circumcision movement will continue to oppose it. Some Jews are deliberately not having their male children circumcised – with the rationale that the Shoah has taught the wisdom of not having their male offspring identified as being Jewish. For the anti-Semites, this can be confusing because many non-Jewish males have been circumcised.
Informed parents know that vaccination against various diseases not only protects their child but other children as well. I suggest that circumcision is akin to vaccination and that parents who bring their infant son for circumcision are not violating his rights. It is the right thing to do.
Of course, the debate continues.
Dr. Moskowitz, a retired pediatric psychiatrist, resides in La Jolla. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=28153