A question on tactics

Posted: February 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Ethics, Mission | No Comments »

What does attacking a doctor on Facebook to the point that she deletes her account* accomplish? Yes, she’s a hypocrite for being very serious about “MY body, My choice” for women’s issues, but also performing circumcisions at the request of her patients’ parents that violates their bodies because she stupidly doesn’t believe she should have a say in what she does for the parents – and to her patients. But I’m genuinely unclear on what attacking her, calling her disgusting, and going full offensive at her achieves. Will she now see the light and stop mutilating infants? Or is this our Two Minutes Hate ritual? Since it’s a very clear either/or scenario, I want the former, not the latter, so if there’s something else I’m missing making people choose the latter, please explain it to me.

* And her Instagram account. I’m not posting the link.

“Being Targeted”, Predictably

Posted: December 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Ethics, Public Health | No Comments »

The latest strategy to circumcise children is underway:

Over 900 boys and men in Mombasa County are being targeted for circumcision in a new drive by the government to reduce new HIV infections caused through the exercise.

The National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) said on Friday that it is targeting men aged between 10 and 50 years to undergo the cut under Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC).

The first paragraph mentions boys. The second paragraph discusses 10-year-old men, because fewer would participate in the lie of “voluntary”. It’s always this way in advocating for circumcision, with the meaning of words being malleable to the goal. (e.g. “Medical” rather than “medicalized”) When public health officials advocate for voluntary, adult male circumcision, they never mean “voluntary” or “adult”.

The Lie Feeds Itself – PrePex Is Predictably More Unethical on Circumcision

Posted: December 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Ethics, Public Health | No Comments »

Over the course of five years, it’s been clear where PrePex would go. Circ MedTech made it clear earlier this year that it would not be satisfied with a device aimed at voluntary, adult male circumcision. It only cares about two of those four words. Its adherence to the use of PrePex in voluntary, adult circumcision was always a delay in technology, not a wall of ethics. Now, it shares predictable evidence of its lack of ethics in developing and promoting PrePex. From its FAQ, Is PrePex available for adolescent boys?

The manufacturers of PrePex are committed to assisting males of all ages with appropriate male circumcision technology. Non-surgical circumcision using PrePex is now available for males ages 13 years and above. Devices for Infants & Children (0 days to 13 years) based on the existing PrePex technology are underway.

The only appropriate male circumcision technology appropriate for a normal, healthy male under 18 who does not – or cannot – consent is the technology that remains in the package, unused. Instead, Circ MedTech wants to assist¹ males of all ages, whether or not they want – or will ever want – to be assisted. It does not care about voluntary or adult.

Note that, despite being dated December 3, 2014, that link did not include the italicized language on April 22, 2016. It stated:

The manufacturers of PrePex are committed to assisting males of all ages with appropriate male circumcision technology. Non-surgical circumcision using PrePex is not yet available for youths under the age of 18, although it is being developed and tested.

An ethical organization would not mislead in this manner. I will not pretend to be surprised, however small the offense.

Circ MedTech’s absurdity with language continues in Who is eligible for circumcision with PrePex?:

PrePex has been proven safe and effective for adult and adolescent men over the age of 13. In studies to date, approximately 90% of men who volunteered were eligible to undergo the procedure. Men interested in medical male circumcision should consult with a trained healthcare provider to determine whether PrePex is right for them.

Every time I think circumcision advocacy can no longer shock me, something ridiculous like “adolescent men” appears. Dare I predict the eventual use of “infant men”? Surely that’s too absurd?

I have another ethics question. Did all of the “adolescent men” volunteer, or were they volunteered by their parents. And it’s disgusting² that the prospective patients in “Is PrePex available for adolescent boys” became “adolescent men” when discussing the actual circumcision of those healthy-and-unable-to-consent individuals.

On April 21st, that link stated:

PrePex has been proven safe and effective for adult men over the age of 18. In studies to date, approximately 90% of men who volunteered were eligible to undergo the procedure. Men interested in medical male circumcision should consult with a trained healthcare provider to determine whether PrePex is right for them.
Non-surgical circumcision is not yet recommended for youth under the age of 18 outside the clinical evaluation framework. Several African countries are currently investigating the safety and efficacy of the PrePex procedure for adolescent men, and study results should be available in early 2014.

“Adolescent men” was already there, but within one two-sentence paragraph, Under-18s transitioned from youths to adolescent men. That’s at least impressive in its shamelessness, I suppose.

As always, when public health officials speak of voluntary, adult male circumcision, they never mean voluntary or adult.

¹ The violation of rights seems to require euphemisms.

² I rewrote the euphemism I initially used. I prefer to speak truthfully.

Flawed Circumcision Defense: Barbara Kay

Posted: October 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Control, Ethics, FCD, FGM, Hygiene, Logic, Media Marketing, Pain, Science | No Comments »

[10/19 Update: Edited for clarity and to reduce speculation since late night posting is imperfect and probably unwise.]

National Post columnist Barbara Kay used Brian Morris’ latest rehash on circumcision to repeat her ignorant thoughts on the subject. She begins by regurgitating claimed benefits, which can all be conceded here for the sake of time because they’re irrelevant to the only issue, ethics. Then:

… Dr. Morris and his American co-authors state, “We found that up to 65% of uncircumcised males might experience at least one of these [medical conditions] over their lifetime.” …

Until May 2015 Morris claimed the number as 33%. Since June 2015 he claims it’s 50% in a brochure on his website. And it’s apparently 65% in this new review. When will he settle on 100%? But more to the point, it’s obvious he likes whichever way he can claim this number because it’s flashy. “Ooooooh, 33/50/65 percent is high. Such danger!” But it’s a meaningless number in the context of non-therapeutic circumcision of boys. I assume Morris knows this. I assume Kay doesn’t, so a review of Morris’ history could help. Instead of those numbers, this is what is worth discussing here, from Morris:

Up to 10% of males reaching adulthood uncircumcised [sic] will later require circumcision for medical reasons.

Not only is the number only 10%, it’s only up to 10%. Medically necessary circumcision is rare, at any age. There is no ethical case for imposing the most radical solution without consent when at least 90% of males will never need it.

She continues:

… Their risk-benefit analysis of the procedure led them to conclude the benefits exceed the risks by about 100 to one. (In another study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Morris and colleagues found circumcision produced no adverse affect on sexual function or pleasure, a charge often leveled by anti-circumcision activist groups.)

Much like when Yair Rosenberg accepted Morris’ claim unexamined, Kay doesn’t appear to know the primary source.

But in a study Morris and Krieger rate as [highest quality], Payne et al [12], this:

… It is possible that the uncircumcised penis is more sensitive due to the presence of additional sensory receptors on the prepuce and frenulum, but this cannot be compared with the absence of such structures in the circumcised penis. …

Payne’s study published in 2007. In 2011 Kay wrote:

Set aside the rights-based rhetoric. It’s about sex: Circumcised men have greater pre-orgasmic endurance; non-circumcision permits more frequent ejaculations. …

So, circumcision either delays orgasm, assumed to be positive for all men, or has no effect on sexual pleasure. Like Morris, she appears to play “heads I win, tails you lose”.

Kay goes on to write:

… The AAP states: “The new findings show that infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination and that as such it would be unethical not to routinely offer parents circumcision for their baby boy. Delay puts the child’s health at risk and will usually mean it will never happen.”

That quote is not from the AAP. It’s from Prof. Morris. He wrote it in a press release more than 18 months after the AAP published its revised position statement. Kay doesn’t bother to fact check the most basic statement. [ed. note: Kay asked the online editor to correct her error.] Nor does she pursue how Morris’ quote undermines their case for non-therapeutic neonatal circumcision since he acknowledges that circumcision is rarely necessary.

Thus, while it’s inexcusable, it’s hardly shocking when she continues:

The CPS could not condemn the practice on grounds of increased morbidity. After thousands of years of what is essentially a controlled study with virtually all Jewish men, with a large percentage of Muslim men on one side, and uncircumcised men on the other, it has been unequivocally concluded that circumcision presents no health risks; quite the contrary, as we shall see.

Even Morris doesn’t pretend that circumcision “presents no health risks”. He understates them, and ignores the guaranteed harm from the removal of the foreskin (and possibly frenulum) in 100% of circumcisions. But he’s not so biased that he’ll posit such an obvious untruth. Yet, there’s Kay’s indifference masquerading as hyperbole for all to see.

… Morris’s team estimates the combined frequency of adverse events at 0.4% overall, arguing that “the cumulative frequency of medical conditions attributable to [having an intact foreskin] was approximately 100-fold higher” than the cumulative risk of circumcision.

Even if we accept the numbers, he’s arguing frequency of medical conditions attributable to the foreskin, not the frequency of medically necessary circumcision. It’s fascinating, perhaps, but a transparent obfuscation. The anti-science charge is often leveled at activists here, but soap, water, antibiotics, steroids, condoms, and so on are also science. To start with the most extreme solution at the tiny prospect of a problem sometime in the future is ridiculous.

When she gets to the comparison of male and female genital cutting, she ignores the principle.

The single most irrational argument one often sees is the charge of moral equivalency between circumcision and female genital mutilation. FGM is a phenomenon that is, apart from both affecting the genitals, …

Apart from both affecting the genitals, indeed. Affecting the genitals of a healthy child who does not need or consent to the permanent alteration of said healthy genitals. Non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is unethical. The individual has inherent rights to bodily integrity and autonomy from birth. Non-therapeutic circumcision violates those rights.

… quite separate from circumcision. Unlike circumcision, which removes an unnecessary piece of skin, …

Unnecessary circumcision removes a piece of skin. It’s the same words, but made objective rather than subjective. It’s the fact-based opposite of “heads I win, tails you lose”.

… in no way prevents natural and satisfying sexual function, …

In addition to calling back to the Payne study and Kay’s earlier comments about delayed orgasm, circumcision removes the foreskin, a natural part of the body. That is “natural”. Its mechanism is gone, so circumcision certainly prevents that function. And “satisfying” is subjective. Would all men prefer delayed orgasm and the loss of the foreskin? (I don’t.)

… FGM is a misogynistic practice created as a means for men to control women, …

Circumcision controls men. Its imposition is another’s assessment that the male’s body should be the way someone else prefers. It is then made that way (hopefully, except when complications occur, including possible death). The male is never asked. He is to say “thank you”, praise the imposition, and impose it on his sons as soon as they’re born.

Kay’s argument rests on control as intent rather than action. I doubt she would accept that parents cutting their daughter’s genitals for the reasons we allow them to cut their son’s genitals. She assumes their intent is always evil, but is it the intent or the act that matters here? If she believes intent with FGC is only what she writes, as she appears to believe, she should read more¹ on the topic. And then extrapolate back to the disparity in the intent and the violence of male circumcision.

… meant to prevent sexual desire and gratification in women to ensure their fidelity, and which removes a portion of the genitals absolutely vital to gratification. It is the very epitome of patriarchy, whereas circumcision is a rite of passage conceived by males for other males, and for thousands of years rooted solely in spiritually contractual language and meaning. Women who have been subjected to FGM invariably come from countries in which extreme misogyny is the norm. Circumcision carries no moral or gender-injustice baggage of this kind whatsoever.

I agree that FGM is awful. But it’s silly to repeatedly claim a definitive knowledge that male circumcision does not remove of portion of the genitals absolutely vital to gratification. She ignorantly cites bad summaries of studies and only uses groups of males circumcised at birth or as young children as reference points for this opinion. She doesn’t appear interested in males as individuals with rights and preferences of their own for their foreskins. (“Conceived by males for other males”.) Preference for the foreskin or circumcision is an individual decision. What other males prefer is only valid for themselves.

She closes by misunderstanding the ethics involved one last time, in a disgusting manner:

Parents deserve to be informed of all the evidence, pro and con, when the issue of circumcision arises. It is not necessary for the CPS to actively recommend circumcision to keep to the path of ethics and professional responsibility, but given the accumulation of evidence demonstrating the positive effects of circumcision, it would be unethical of the CPS – or any pediatricians individually – not to present the science available, or worse, to recommend against the procedure.

She’s dancing close to the silly proposition that boys have a right to grow up circumcised. The only ethical position is absolute opposition to (and prohibition of) all non-therapeutic genital cutting without the patient’s consent. It’s the right she recognizes for females. Her source (inadvertently?) recognizes that circumcision is rarely needed ever and can be (but likely won’t be) chosen later. She cites evidence of males who are dissatisfied with circumcision and being circumcised. But she ignores these in favor of her own biases. Cognitive dissonance (and a non-sequitur) is the best she can offer. She is ignorant. She should aim to be less ignorant.

¹ Consider Fuambai Sia Aahmadu, and from 2008.

The Lie Feeds Itself -PrePex and Unethical Circumcision

Posted: June 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Ethics, HIV, Media Marketing | 3 Comments »

Note: I updated the title after posting this entry.

I wrote this in December 2011:

… And to be fair to Circ MedTech, it promotes PrePex for adult male circumcision. We’ll see if their focus remains on voluntary, adult male circumcision.

And this, in February 2012, in a footnote:

This is where I’ll invoke the articles on the PrePex as an example. My objection to the recent pieces about it centers on the poor journalism rather than the device. I expect the device will eventually be tweaked to allow for infant circumcision at some point. That would be wrong. For now it’s a device for voluntary, adult circumcision. I have no objection to that. The claimed risks involved with the device are low. The claim that adult circumcision is more dangerous than infant circumcision doesn’t appear to hold up, generally, regardless of the method. This claim is a framing device of dubious quality rather than a fact to be [sic] negate ethics.

I expect the device will eventually be tweaked to allow for infant circumcision at some point. And four years later, this press release, from last month (emphasis in original, footnote added):

The World Health Organization (WHO) expanded the Intended Use of the currently-prequalified PrePex device to include adolescents aged 13 years, and above. Effective immediately, the PrePex device, manufactured by Circ MedTech, can be offered for adult and adolescent males in the 14 priority countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. PrePex was the first male circumcision device to receive WHO Prequalification on 31 May 2013.

Circ MedTech’s CEO, Eddy Horowitz said: “The expanded use of PrePex for younger ages will sustain Voluntary [sic] Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) programs in the 14 Sub-Saharan Africa priority countries and will serve the new UNAIDS Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of an additional 27 Million male circumcisions by the year 2020.

Circ MedTech Ltd. is in the advanced stages of adapting its PrePex technology for use with infants¹ and children, thus offering safe male circumcision services to all ages, worldwide.

At least they dropped their lie about “voluntary” in the last paragraph. But they still include it in their FAQs.

Why is it called “Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision?”

“Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision” is a term used by the global health community to emphasize that circumcision is a personal choice.

“Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision” is a term used by the global health community for propaganda. The global health community (i.e. public health officials) does not care, has not cared, and apparently will not care, about “voluntary” (or even “medical”, since this surgery is “medicalized”, not medical, circumcision). The expansion of PrePex to children who can’t consent demonstrates this. Volunteer and volunteered are not synonyms here. The global health community legitimizes whoever’s choice results in a statistic, the removal of another normal, intact male’s foreskin. Remember, the measure of success in these campaigns is “male circumcisions”, not something relating² to HIV infection rates, the alleged, stated aim of “Voluntary” “Medical” Male Circumcision.

If those involved with PrePex cared about ethics, this expansion of the product line wouldn’t occur. But here we are with the above evidence and the questions raised by more from their FAQs, such as:

What is Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision? (click to read answer)

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS announced recommendations,based on extensive studies, to scale up Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) to men in areas of high risk for heterosexual HIV transmission. The studies showed that men with a circumcised penis are approximately 70 percent less likely to contract HIV from heterosexual intercourse than men with an uncircumcised penis–in addition to other health and hygiene benefits.

This finding, replicated in rigorous, repeated studies across several countries, has led doctors and public health professionals to recommend that men in high-risk areas have access to VMMC.

Imagine a person who doesn’t know what Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision is. Now imagine that person reading the answer PrePex gave to his question, “What is Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision?”. Does he now know what Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision is? Circ MedTech already showed they don’t know what “voluntary” or “medical” mean. They should be able to pretend better than the word salad they provide.

Let me try:

What is Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision?

Male circumcision is the permanent removal of the foreskin (i.e. male prepuce), the fold of skin covering the penis. This may also involve removal of the frenulum.

The procedure is voluntary and only offered to males able and willing to consent. This consent is achieved by providing a detailed explanation of the benefits, costs, and risks associated with male circumcision. The medical provider will emphasize what is guaranteed versus what is possible for the benefits, costs, and risks. With this knowledge, the individual may decide for himself if he wishes to proceed and be circumcised or not. The procedure is carried out only with his affirmative consent.

Circumcision is best carried out in a medical setting. It is recommended that, if the individual consents, this be performed in a sterile setting with trained professionals to minimize risks and negative outcomes. The risk of complications cannot be completely eliminated.

They can’t say that because it’s true and rules out the option to circumcise healthy children. Instead, they ramble about the perceived benefits. One should assign a level of trust corresponding to how forthcoming they are on the risks, so not much.

The lesson remains the same. When public health officials (i.e. the global health community) promotes “voluntary” (“adult”) male circumcision, they never mean “voluntary” (or “adult”).

¹ WHO TECHNICAL ADVISORY GROUP ON INNOVATIONS IN MALE CIRCUMCISION: “Providers must be trained to recognize when an adolescent is not eligible for the PrePexTM device due to inability to retract the foreskin or discomfort while attempting to do so, or when there are adhesions or phimosis. …” The inability to retract the foreskin is normal at birth because it adheres to the rest of the penis.

² Even where it is something related to HIV, do we have enough to determine causation rather than correlation? Possibly. I don’t know. And to repeat, I don’t care if adults choose circumcision for themselves. What each person does with his body is up to him. Nor do I state unequivocally that all potential benefits are illegitimate. The argument for imposing circumcision on a healthy child in pursuit of those potential benefits is, though. Always. The removal of his foreskin is a price the individual may not wish to pay.

The “Hacking Away at Perfectly Healthy Genitals is Bad” Principle

Posted: February 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Ethics, FGM, Logic, Parenting | No Comments »

How many times have we seen a quote like this?

In Jacksonville, Dominic Morris, a 30-year-old father of two, said he did not understand what all the fuss was about. He said he was not mutilated during his circumcision, didn’t bleed at all and felt nearly no pain during or after the procedure. “Mutilation is horrible, but it’s not true that it happens here” in America, Mr. Morris said. “They cannot stop us. It’s our tradition.”

That’s said every time an activist discusses circumcision for what it is rather than what people think it is. It’s accepted thought. We’re told we owe complete deference to it. Who are we to tell people their dismissal of inconvenient facts is wrong? We’ll assume they’re informed, whatever they’ve been told or choose to believe. Parents have this absolute right to have their healthy children cut for whatever reason they desire. Sons only. Obviously.

Except, wait. I just noticed an error. I transcribed that quote wrong. Here’s the real quote from that story:

In Jakarta, Fitri Yanti, a pregnant 30-year-old mother of two, said she did not understand what all the fuss was about. She said she was not mutilated during her circumcision, didn’t bleed at all and felt nearly no pain during or after the procedure. “Mutilation is horrible, but it’s not true that it happens here” in Indonesia, Ms. Fitri said. “They cannot stop us. It’s our tradition.”

We will never accept that defense in the context of female genital cutting. Rightly so, of course. But I choose not to be a hypocrite, so I don’t accept it for male genital cutting, either. The basic fact is the same. It’s non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. Therefore, the principle is the same. They are both unethical. Opposition to one necessitates¹ opposition to the other².

We should also be clear on what Ms. Fitri may be arguing.

Experts in Indonesia said the practice there had largely involved a less drastic version of cutting, usually a surface scratch or nick, as compared with more severe disfiguring. The Indonesian government’s survey asked parents if their young daughters had undergone circumcision. Ms. Cappa said it was possible that there were some more severe cases in Indonesia, but she said the official Indonesian government definition of female circumcision was “an act of scratching the skin that covers the front of clitoris without injuring the clitoris.”

That is objectively less harmful than male circumcision. Still, the official government definition could be irrelevant to the reasons parents are answering “yes”. The parents could be openly admitting something much more severe. This possible difference matters for prevention and response. In principle, it’s irrelevant. We recognize even “a surface scratch or nick” on a female minor’s genitals, which will likely heal without permanent injury or scarring, as unethical and worthy of prohibition. The WHO’s definition of FGM is effectively “any genital injury for non-medical reasons”. The universal principle is obvious and applies without regard to sex. We must all reject the silly, biased distinction the WHO and others demand. Possible health benefits are not a “medical” reason for non-therapeutic male genital cutting. (“Medicalized” is not the same as “medical”.)

What happened to Ms. Fitri is unethical. What will/did happen to Ms. Fitri’s children is unethical. For every male who was/is the hypothetical Dominic Morris as a child, what happened to them as a child is unethical.

(Title reference here.)

¹ Opposition to both does not necessitate equal activist efforts from everyone. Care more about FGC/M? Agitate for change. Care more about MGC/M? Activate for change. The cumulative effort will work itself out. Just don’t dump on those agitating more for one than the other, or for making the logical comparison of the two.

² Or it necessitates support for both, but I assume no one reading this wishes to be horribly wrong and unethical.

I Guessed What Phase Two Involves

Posted: September 7th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Control, Ethics, HIV | No Comments »

Oh, what could this transition be?

The National Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision taskforce has rolled out the second phase of circumcision on regions with a high burden of HIV this time targeting over 1 million men.

The chairman of the Inter County Taskforce on Male Circumcision Dr Ojwang Lusi said the program is transitioning to the second phase of implementation that will run to July 2019.

We all guessed what this means.

The second phase will lower the circumcision age of boys to between 10-14 years.

I assume there’s a Phase Three – or an undocumented aspect of Phase Two – involving infant “men”. Predictably, it’s obvious why.

Lusi further noted that some challenges emerged in the first phase that they will strive to address as the second phase.

He said most of the men above 25 years declined to go for the exercise with limited number of women getting involved in the exercise with their husbands.

Men won’t volunteer, so child men get “volunteered”. As always with those who are unethical, because outcome matters instead of consent.

Joint Government Effort to Eradicate Consent

Posted: June 19th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Control, Ethics, HIV, Public Health | 2 Comments »

As always:

The Ministry Of Information and Communication Technology in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the centre for Disease Control in America are collaborating on a National Strategic framework known as the Voluntary Medical Male programme which is a joint government effort to eradicate the long struggle of HIV/AIDS infections.

HIV/AIDS has always been the countries top priority with the health ministry being pressured to reach their ambitious 2030 vision to bring HIV/AIDS infections to zero in the country.”The Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of health have had three randomised controlled trial runs of the voluntary medical male circumcision programme prior to it’s launch in 2009. With the success of the programme around 20,000 sexual active males have been circumcised to date thus raising 80% awareness to men to encourage more males in considering medical circumcision,”said programme specialist Mr Dan Rutz of CDC.

Somehow success is measure in “males circumcised” without giving any statistics on HIV rates¹. So it’s easy to predict what “encouraging more males to consider ‘medical’² circumcision” means:

“Medical male circumcision has been found to be cost effective, as well as all procedures are free at clinics it has been known that healthy employers increases work productivity within any work environment which leads to a steady healthy work environment that enables the economy to grow,” added Rutz.All males that have not been circumcised are encouraged to do so as procedures can be performed at all local regional clinics in the country as government want to achieve it’s target to circumcise 330,000 men between 15 to 49 years by the end of 2016.The Ministry would also like to implement a national policy programme known as an Early Infant Circumcision strategy in the near future that will enable newly born babies to be circumcised.

“Enable”. Newborn males won’t get to consider or volunteer. They will be considered and volunteered, their needs, preferences, and preventative options deemed irrelevant. They are only pieces by which public health officials measure their own professional success.

As always, when public health officials discuss voluntary or adult circumcision, they never mean voluntary or adult.

¹ A drop in HIV infections would be welcome. It cannot justify violating ethical obligations to protect the rights of non-consenting individuals.

² Circumcision in this context is medicalized, not medical. Merely performing non-therapeutic genital cutting in a sterile operating environment does not make it necessary. This is also not a defensible term to justify performing non-therapeutic genital cutting on a person who does not offer explicit consent.

Put Health Before Politics

Posted: June 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Ethics, Public Health | No Comments »

I’ve never had much respect for public health officials when it comes to infant circumcision. When they say adult or voluntary, they never mean it. It’s also seemed clear for a long while that they’re not much interested in health, either. The latest example is New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s approach to protecting infants from herpes transmitted during metzitzah b’peh. I’m ignoring for now the horrible optics of the new makeup of the New York City Board of Health. The actual proposal allegedly aimed at protecting the health of infant males:

The mayor’s proposal, which requires approval by the board and will be presented on Wednesday, is … would waive a requirement that parents sign a consent form before the ritual, which involves sucking blood from the incision on a baby’s penis.

Instead, the mayor’s plan would create an alternative system that would test a circumciser, or mohel, for herpes, although only after a baby is found to be infected. If the circumciser tests positive, penalties would be pursued if DNA tests can prove that the mohel and the baby were infected with the same strain.

We know infection happens with metzitzah b’peh. We know that herpes can have devastating effects on infants. That alone should be enough to demand a proactive rather than reactive approach to protecting the health of infants. The case for a potentially effective plan, not this proposal, is impossible to ignore when also remembering that infants have rights that the government and Board of Health are no less obligated to protect.

The consent rule, introduced under Mayor Bloomberg, was assailed by Orthodox leaders as an infringement of their religious rights. Mr. de Blasio pledged to rescind the rule, and his aides later said the consent forms had been difficult to enforce, saying that herpes infections linked to the practice actually rose in 2014.

“This approach hasn’t been working in the past, and we need a new approach to truly reduce the health risk for infants,” Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, said in a statement on Tuesday. Ms. Hinton added that the mayor had an “obligation to ensure that the Board of Health is fully staffed with highly qualified health experts.”

Protecting the bodily integrity rights of all infants is a new approach to reduce the health risk for infants. We haven’t tried that yet. And trying that is the ethical approach.

I don’t pretend protecting the rights of all infants, the correct approach, will be easy. Even with the “consent” document Mayor Bloomberg implemented, infections increased. Protecting the rights of infants in law and in reality are separate issues. The former would not guarantee the latter. But public health officials, ostensibly entrusted to (ethically) protect the health of all members of society, must aim for effectiveness, not politics.

The Trauma of Small Numbers

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Ethics, Logic, Regret | No Comments »

At The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Christopher Ingraham crunches through a few statistics about circumcision, with the headline writer concluding that “Americans truly are exceptional — at least when it comes to circumcision”. In the implied context of outlier for exceptional, yes, we are exceptional in our ability to ignore ethics and logic. Let’s not celebrate.

Most of the post is working through numbers. While relevant and informative, virtually everyone reading this will not be surprised by any of it. The encouraging aspect is in the access young people have to information.

Survey data indicate that we may see these declines continue. A YouGov survey conducted earlier this year found that young people were more skeptical about the practice than their elders: only 33 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds said that male children should be routinely circumcised, compared to 43 percent of 30-to-44 year-olds, 52 percent of 45-to-64 year-olds, and nearly two thirds of seniors.

This is why it’s critical to continue highlighting and objecting to garbage initiatives like the CDC’s recent draft proposal that focuses on infants. We’re convincing people that it’s time to stop circumcising.

The end of the post provides the information necessary to grasp the ethics.

… Overall, men who have been circumcised don’t appear to have many regrets about it: only 10 percent of circumcised men said they wished they hadn’t been circumcised, according to YouGov.

Since the number-crunching doesn’t quite get there, I want to open the perspective to what the numbers mean. At the time I’m writing this post, the U.S. Population Clock stands at 320,952,250 Americans. That means there are approximately 160,476,125 American males. Given that infant circumcision rate spent decades in the 90% range but is now lower, I’ll estimate that 75% of American males were¹ circumcised. That estimate results in 120,357,093 circumcised American males. Applying the survey’s 10%, I wish to restate Mr. Ingraham’s conclusion to consider whether his analysis should survive further number-crunching.

Overall, men who have been circumcised don’t appear to have many regrets about it: only 12,035,709 circumcised men said they wished they hadn’t been circumcised.

We mistakenly think about circumcision in terms of statistics and probabilities. That hides the violation involved, and allows society to believe we’re doing something good. But there is an individual at the tip of every scalpel. I think one is an exceptional, too-large number in the context of a male regretting non-therapeutic circumcision without his consent. However, it’s easy to imagine that ten percent is a small, inconsequential number. It is neither small nor inconsequential. We must realize that twelve million males² is a large, inexcusable number.

¹ Some might argue I should say are circumcised. I criticize the act of circumcising healthy males without their consent, not the state of being circumcised, however the male got to that point. It’s the ethics against circumcision, which includes the ethics against body shaming. I support any male’s decision to be content being circumcised.

² It’s worth remembering that some number of the content 90% would be content with their foreskin. It’s a mistake in the ethical evaluation to conclude that contentment by itself is a justification. That is dealing only with what is seen. Do not ignore what is unseen.