Concern for Individual Health

From last week’s headlines:

Researchers have documented yet another health benefit for circumcision, which can protect men against the AIDS virus, saying it can protect their wives and girlfriends from a virus that causes cervical cancer.

This doesn’t accurately qualify for the term yet another. It’s merely a sales tactic by an ignorant reporter. This potential benefit has been reported for decades.

Regardless, this should change nothing in anyone’s analysis about whether or not parents may legitimately force circumcision on their healthy sons. Their sons are not engaging in sexual activities, and will not for many years. When they do, they would still need t practice safe sex. (Their partners will still need to do the same.) The decision does not need to be made at the child’s birth.

There are several additional points to remember:

GlaxoSmithKline and Merck make vaccines against HPV but they are not available to most women in developing countries.

The ethics of these vaccines involve many of the same issues involved in male circumcision, but the key fact from this excerpt is that these vaccines are available in the United States. Combined with safe sex practices, there are alternatives. There is no reason to continue pushing infant male circumcision instead.


“We are not at all mandating that everyone should be circumcised, but we disagree that the evidence is ‘conflicting’ as the AAP says. We believe the public should be aware of the existing evidence and it should be a decision among parents that are informed of this evidence,” [Dr. Aaron] Tobian says.

The issue isn’t whether the evidence is conflicting. It’s hubris to assume we know the answers, as the constantly-changing nature of scientific findings shows. Still, if we assume that these findings are accurate and definitive, it doesn’t change the correct conclusion against non-therapeutic child circumcision. The boy is healthy, so he doesn’t need the surgery. He may not want it when he can comprehend the unavoidable negatives of the surgery. It is, therefore, unethical to impose it on him for some potential, possibly-never-to-be-realized benefit.

For final consideration:

“There’s no doubt that male circumcision provides a certain degree of protection against sexually transmitted diseases,” adds [Dr. Thomas] Quinn, “and male circumcision needs to be reevaluated by leading health authorities as to its true public health benefit, not just to men but to future female partners.”

Imagine the reaction if scientists suggested cutting female children to protect the health of adult males. That would correctly generate outrage. Accepting the sexism inherent in the opposite scenario, as embraced in articles like the two above, is no more justifiable.

One thought on “Concern for Individual Health”

  1. With each paper these folks publish they increasingly and more blatantly expose their true motives. Notice in one of the press releases that one of the authors took the liberty to shoot down ahead of time that the results were only applicable in Africa, using the previous studies in the US as evidence. Couple that with almost completely ignoring a very effective and broadly available vaccine that is nearly six years old and you know where they want to be.

    To your last point Tony, I vividly recall during the introduction of Gardasil many prominent researcher and public health officials wondering if it was ethical to include boys for the simple reason that to do so would benefit girls. Funny how such things without cultural concerns get more consideration.

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