Monday, August 27, 2012

The Unkindest Cut

Let's calm down and get a grip.
I'll give all of you a good tip:
It's a boy? Then rejoice
but leave it his choice.
Avoid giving your son the snip.

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement stating that "Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and that the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it." I scoured the technical report looking for which study might have led to this conclusion, but there were no references at all.

There was a study concerning circumcision in the news recently. This study was deeply flawed on many levels, flawed to the point that The Lancet refused to publish. This study seemed to show that, for a certain subset of men in Sub-Saharan Africa, circumcision reduced the rate at which they contracted HIV. There are many, many sites which point out the flaws in this study, but the biggest flaw, in my mind, is the fact that those males that were circumcised for the study were told to refrain from sexual activity for 6 weeks and, if they were to engage in sex, they should wear a condom. Uncircumcised men in the study were not given the same advice, which gave them 6 extra weeks of opportunities to contract a STD.

Where did we get this idea that baby boys should have their genitals mutilated on a regular basis? As a religious ritual, circumcision has been around for thousands of years. In the United  States, however, we have John Harvey Kellogg to thank for the popularization of the practice. Yeah, the same guy who brought us Corn Flakes and Grape Nuts was a proponent of slicing off a bit of a boy's junk on a regular basis. From Plain Facts for Old and Young:

A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision.

The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed. If any attempt is made to watch the child, he should be so carefully surrounded by vigilance that he cannot possibly transgress without detection. If he is only partially watched, he soon learns to elude observation, and thus the effect is only to make him cunning in his vice.

There is, of course, no medical basis for this type of thinking. Just an idea that, by cutting a boy's foreskin off, he would be broken of the evil nasty habit of masturbation.

Here's my idea. If we are going to perform unnecessary medical procedures on newborns, let's make them count. The only medical reason for circumcision is the prevention of phimosis. Phimosis has never killed a person in the history of humanity. Appendicitis, however, can be fatal. I propose that each newborn child, not just boys here, let's be truly equal, receive an appendectomy. If people are going to say that there is a medical reason for circumcision then let us perform other procedures on newborns that might save their lives down the road.

Of course, if you are against the saving of a child's life, then just admit that circumcision is a religious and cultural idea, and let us lump it in with female genital mutilation and stop the procedure completely.

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