America Participates in Forced Circumcision

An article from the American Association of Clinical Urologists in Urology Times offers a frustrating introduction to the current circumcision controversy:

Legislators, researchers, imams, and rabbis argue whether male circumcision decreases certain diseases, whether a child can or should give consent, or whether religious freedom should trump all of this. Public policy discussions that are taking place throughout the Western world—specifically, the U.S.—have implications for urologists.

Americans are mostly insulated from horror stories around the globe, such as in Indonesia, where religious extremists who practice forced circumcision on men, children, and even pregnant women in attempts at forced religious conversion; or in South Africa, where certain cultures allow for the forced circumcision of boys deemed to be “past the age of initiation.” Female circumcision is now called “female genital mutilation” and is illegal in most of the Western world.

All non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is “forced circumcision”. That includes every circumcision of a healthy American boy. The issue at hand is force. (e.g. force is force) All the comforting justifications offered in the West for a nonsensical exemption to basic human rights and medical ethics for male child circumcision do not change the violation of forcing this non-therapeutic surgery on those who cannot consent. The foreskin is a normal body part, not an irrelevant “extra bit of skin” that may be removed from a minor (male only, of course) because it might cause some problem some day, no matter how likely, preventable, or treatable. (Worse: the other more bizarre reasons we accept from parents for this surgery.)

The article’s conclusion is frustrating, as well. I understand not wanting to take a stance on which side is right. However, that’s the critical question, especially if more non-therapeutic child circumcisions will be pushed to doctors as law and culture changes. The focus should not be on the possibility that these changes could increase urologists’ liability premiums. It would do that because more complications would occur in doctor-performed circumcisions. That’s simple numbers. But those complications don’t have to happen. When a requested circumcision is not medically indicated and the patient can’t consent, the critical question of which side is right must be addressed. There is an ethical answer. As the article points out, “[c]omplications stemming from circumcision may have lifelong implications for the individual at the other end of the knife, no matter their age.” What does the child want in the absence of need? When he can’t consent, no one should participate in circumcising him.

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