Circumcision: Benefits Outweight Risks

As a general rule, when debates about circumcision arise, I tend to fall with those who believe that a parent should have the right to make that decision for the child in its infancy. The notion of a child’s right to choose is absurd to me, a point I tried to hammer when the courts in Germany made this an international issue. Additionally the frequent argument that having a foreskin results in a better sex life is precisely the kind of qualitative judgment that science is unable to make. The statement that a penis with a foreskin is more sensate is a scientific claim. That a more sensate penis is better or results in more fulfilling sex is not.

What remains, in terms of arguments against circumcision, is the notion that it is an entirely cosmetic procedure or that, if it has some medical value, that such a value is minimal and outweighed by the risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement which the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed saying that just the opposite is true:

The nation’s most influential pediatricians group says the health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh any risks and insurance companies should pay for it…

“It’s not a verdict from on high,” said policy co-author Dr. Andrew Freedman. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all-answer.” But from a medical standpoint, circumcision’s benefits in reducing risk of disease outweigh its small risks, said Freedman, a pediatric urologist in Los Angeles.

Recent research bolstering evidence that circumcision reduces chances of infection with HIV and other sexually spread diseases, urinary tract infections and penis cancer influenced the academy to update their 13-year-old policy.

Their old stance said potential medical benefits were not sufficient to warrant recommending routinely circumcising newborn boys. The new one says, “The benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for those families who choose it.” The academy also says pain relief stronger than a sugar-coated pacifier is essential, usually an injection to numb the area.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Convention has estimated circumcision costs range from about $200 to $600 nationwide…Meantime, a recent study projected that declining U.S. circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming years because of increased illness and infections.

As the quote states, this is nowhere near an endorsement of universal male circumcision. It does, however, better articulate a well-reasoned position on the subject. Informed parents can make informed decisions without being labeled, socially or legally, as child mutilators. Maybe that means that the US medical community is “out of step” with other developed nations, as Ronald Goldman suggests, but if Germany is an example of such a nation, I’m glad we’re not in step with them.

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One thought on “Circumcision: Benefits Outweight Risks

  1. […] 6) Germany, it was discovered recently, could benefit from a greater sensitivity to history. Ignoring the obvious perception it would create, a German judge effectively outlawed religious circumcision. As an advocate for the responsibility of parents to make medical (and religious) decisions on behalf of children, I was delighted when the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the issue: […]

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