Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Can you give me some reasons why infant male circumcision is wrong?
Circumcision of a male infant is not therapeutic. It's not meant to treat a disease or a condition that is endangering the infant's well-being, so at most it could be considered prophylactic or esthetic. As such, it is an ELECTIVE surgery (meaning, it's not needed) and it can wait.
The first problem is that being an ELECTIVE surgery, the patient did not ELECT it. It was elected by the parents, and the child may grow to resent it. (I know that I wish I had not been cut).
The second problem is that considering that it is elective, it exposes the child to some risks that are not trivial:
Some babies die from bleeding (if a baby looses 2.5 ounces of blood, he dies).
Some babies contract infections through the wound and some of those infections can be life threatening: septicemia can kill a baby or an adult.
There are surgical "mishaps" that can DAMAGE or DESTROY the penis, i.e., hurting the urethra, cutting part of the glans, cutting the whole glans, cutting half the penis...
There are consequences that might not be noticed until adulthood. Since circumcision cuts away approximately 50% of the skin of the penis, there might not be enough skin for the penis to have a normal erection. Some teenagers have their skin split open during an erection. Some adults experience pain or their penis twists in an unnatural way all their lives during erection.
While there is no completed study about this, it has been suggested that circumcision affects the sexual sensitivity because it removes the nerves inside the foreskin and because the glans will become hard and callous with time just for being in constant friction with the underwear. Kinda like if you were missing an eyelid, your eye will be red and dry all the time.
While there might be some preventive benefits to circumcision, almost all those benefits can wait (and are still open to debate).
Urinary infections occur more in women than in men, and if they occur, they can be treated with antibiotics just like it's done for women.
HIV prevention... this supposed benefit is not really that much. It might reduce the chance of getting HIV from an infected woman, but it's not a surgical vaccine, it's not a 90 or 95% effective. It has to be complemented with condoms and safe sex, so pretty much you could get the same benefit just from using condoms and safe sex all the time. And it doesn't prevent infection in same-sex relationships or by non-sexual ways of infection.
As for preventing penile cancer... that's a very uncommon cancer and it happens in old age. The cancer society doesn't recommend circumcision just for that reason.
Phimosis -if it happens- can usually be treated in more conservative ways (stretching the skin rather than cutting it). And most of the times it doesn't happen.
So again, if an adult thinks that those benefits justify getting circumcised, he can ELECT to get circumcised. It will take a couple of weeks of healing and then he can go on with his life. But those benefits are not enough to justify forcing circumcision on a child.
Also, many medical circumcisions of babies are done without anesthesia or with improper anesthesia because the "baby won't remember it". It hurts. Just look up a video on youtube.
The thing is, once it's cut, it's cut. And your child will grow to be an adult one day, and one day he will learn that his parents let him get cut, And he might not be so convinced of the health reasons. He might want to know what that body part was like, how if felt, what it did. I know many men who think like this.
The culture is changing. 60 years ago, female circumcision was common (not as common as male, but common anyway) among white Americans. Then it stopped quietly. By the 80's, people started hearing about female cutting in reference to African immigrants, and it was denounced as cruel.
Hardly anyone before 1979 thought that female cutting was cruel, after all cut women could still get pregnant, which "proved" that their sexual function had not been affected.
It took until 1996 for the U.S. to ban female cutting. Today pretty much everybody on the western civilization agrees that female cutting is mutilation. But male circumcision is still very prevalent.
But what you are seeing is the beginning of the same change. People are denouncing male cutting as cruel. People are denouncing male cutting as something that has some collateral damage, that some babies die or suffer a lifetime of consequences. Some males are starting to complain about the effects that circumcision had in their lives and how they wish they had been left intact.
Some countries are debating banning male circumcision for non-therapeutic reasons. Perhaps in 20 or 30 years we will all agree that male circumcision of infants is cruel and damaging and hurts children. And by then, a baby who was circumcised today, will be an adult, and he will know that he was subjected to that practice because his parents thought it was the right thing to do because their culture had been doing it for 150 years (assuming he's American).