Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Discussing circumcision... when you can't handle it, delete the comments

Zola Levitt Ministries re-published a news story by Anthony Weiss/JTA with the misguiding title of "Health benefits of circumcision far outweigh the risks". When given some of the facts that he is evidently missing, he goes for the delete key. Let's see:

A comment by Hugh7 said:

Sadly, even would-be scientific bodies such as the CDC are subject to cultural bias on such an intimate matter as men’s relationship with their favourite part. The position is nothing like as clear as the CDC summary says. It would take well over 100 circumcisions wasted (by the circumcision advocates’ own figures) to prevent one UTI, which can be treated conservatively, over 1000 to prevent one penile cancer in an old man with a readily detected and treated abnormality of his foreskin (and who probably smokes). Circumcised men are at MORE risk of penile cancer than men with normal foreskins.

ZLM Editor responded:

[...] your statistics of how many circumcisions would be needed to prevent one UTI or case of cancer lack authoritative backing up and rely on your say-so to contradict the conclusions of scientific studies. 

I tried to clarify that the numbers Hugh quoted come directly from the AAP's 2012 Policy Statement on circumcision. This was my comment:

ZLM Editor, Hugh’s figures for number to prevent UTI and penile cancer come directly from the AAP’s Technical Report on Circumcision from 2012 (accompanying document to the Policy Statement), which both Hugh and myself have read several times. Your misattribution of those numbers make me believe you have not read it.

If you read the actual paper by Morris, Wiswell and Bailis (I don’t understand what’s a psychologist, Bailis, doing promoting circumcision, but ok), you will notice that the authors say that their method was to search on pubmed database for articles on circumcision. However, out of the 80 references, 12 are co-authored by Brian Morris. Did he really need a database search to find his own articles?

We have been observing Mr. Morris’ modus operandi for years. He typically will publish one (poorly authored) study or critique of a different study, send press releases to all media about how impeccable his new study is, and a few months later will reference the study in third person (“experts have demonstrated that…”). Every article that disputes his arguments will be considered to be low quality or published in low quality publications.

I’m not trying with this to do an ad-hominem attack. It is fair to understand the background, personal bias and repeated offenses when you are going to consider the value and objectivity of a person’s argument.

After a while, ZLM editor edited and shortened my comment to:


ZLM Editor, We have been observing Mr. Morris’ modus operandi for years. He typically will publish one (poorly authored) study or critique of a different study, send press releases to all media about how impeccable his new study is, and a few months later will reference the study in third person (“experts have demonstrated that…”). Every article that disputes his arguments will be considered to be low quality or published in low quality publications.

I’m not trying with this to do an ad-hominem attack. It is fair to understand the background, personal bias and repeated offenses when you are going to consider the value and objectivity of a person’s argument.

Notice the mismatched capital in the first sentence. His reply:

Juan Alzate –

I’m leaving your comment in this discussion as a final cautionary note to inform our readers of how some studies can be “documented.” I cannot verify that your information is accurate for this particular study, but I suspect that the method you describe does happen. That is another reason why we recommend researching articles from several sources, preferably known and reputable like the CDC. I doubt very much that the CDC “doctored” their results, which appear to agree with the study published by Morris et al.

A second comment that I made was deleted. This was the comment:

ZLM Editor, I have a question for you…

If you follow the news on this topic, you may have heard of a baby in Pittsburgh who last year had his member amputated by the mohel performing his circumcision. You may have heard of a baby in Memphis, also last year, who had his organ also amputated at a medical facility during his circumcision (also last year).

Just last week there were news of a man who was circumcised at age 7, leading to the loss of his genital, who now in his thirties has finally had it surgically reconstructed (after 3 failed surgeries) and was able to father a child.

There was a man who was circumcised in 1965 and had his part destroyed (same complication as the man 30 years ago and as the two babies from last year) – but also his life. A psychologist from Johns Hopkins University, John Money, recommended raising him as a girl – castration, hormones. At 11, he/she was almost suicidal, and finally the family came clean and told the truth. He underwent surgical removal of the two breasts he had developed and reconstruction of a non-functional phallus. He married a single mother of three. In 2004 he committed suicide. His name, David Reimer.

What can you tell this people? Can you really tell them that the benefits they received outweighed the risks and harm they suffered? Can you really say that with clean heart?

Btw, I notice the title of your article is benefits “FAR OUTWEIGH” the risks. I don’t know where you found the word “FAR”. The AAP never said that the benefits “FAR” outweigh the risks. If anything, Andrew Freedman from the task force on circumcision said that it is a procedure with modest benefits and modest risks (minimizing the risks, of course).

Mr. Morris however writes in the abstract of his “new study” that the benefits outweigh the risks by 100 to 1. This number however is not substantiated in his “study”, it’s not a direct conclusion from his study, so it is simply a slogan that he likes to repeat. In fact he said the same number last year during his appearance in an Australian talk show – long before performing this new study. Do you see anything wrong with “knowing” the conclusions before performing the study?

The comment disappeared. My questions were not addressed. Curious about this I submitted a third comment:

Oh, just wondering why you edited my comment and removed the real data.

I did say that the numbers on UTIs and penile cancer that Hugh quoted came directly from the AAP's Technical Report on Circumcision from 2012.


And I did say that out of 80 references in Morris' study, 12 are co-authored by him.

And my comment about men who lost their members, which can be verified in news. I wonder why you removed that? How can we tell those men that the benefits they received outweighed the risks and harm they suffered?
 



The response? Silence, and the delete key.

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