Bogus Evidence That Male Circumcision Prevents HIV Spread


Padawan Learner

Compelling Evidence That Male Circumcision Prevents HIV Spread
Medical News Today - 7 hours ago
The scientific case for circumcising men as a way to prevent HIV from spreading in Africa is compelling. The realizaton of this evidence is as dramatic as the discovery of HIV and AIDS in the first place.

Intersting and probably true, as most who are not cut have hygiene issues if they are not very thorough in their cleaning of themselves.
While there may be a negative correlation between circumcision and HIV, this is kind of like saying, in a country where lice is epidemic, shaving your entire body helps to prevent lice spreading. It may be true, but perhaps there are other problems with being totally hairless/circumcised, or more efficient methods?
It often distresses me that we are so willing to take a pill or alter our body in some way so as to "heal" or "protect ourselves". While I understand the serious nature of HIV and the need for prevention strategies I still, as a "natural healer" am taken back by our desire to continually control the outcome of anything in this world by directly interfering with the natural process. I hope that this article that shows a reduction in the spread of AIDS through the use of circumcision is not implying that men be forced into this procedure. People have decisions to make, many of these decisions are made poorly resulting in unfortunate circumstances. This does not mean we take away the right to choose our own path. You may say "what about those who are innocently hurt in the process?" While I agree that many that have not actively engaged in "high risk" behaviour will be affected most of them will have made the choice to engage in an activity with someone who has. We must all be careful in finding the choices we are most comfortable with and then deciding on one of them. Unfortunately, all we continue to do is muddy the waters and there is no easy answer, only more questions. Understand, I have compassion for all and feel pain for those who suffer but with that I also believe at no time should we eliminate peoples right to choose the path on which they want to live.

Hope that stayed on topic.
Well we are speaking of cleanliness. It Is harder to clean hidden area and folds. Doctors in certain locals regularly meet patients who in 20 years have never removed thier socks/stockings!! When I heard that I was floored, but much of humanity is simply brain dead and anything that helps ... well if it helps and has no bad point it seems to make sense, They are not clean even being cut. Without the procedure it has to be worse of a problem, if they are not clean with it. Anything beyond the waist will take care of itself with a simple rinse, they think.

Muslums are all trained at an early age to keep all of that area clean. Many other religions are totally afraid of the genetalia area as they are paralized with fear at the thought of dealing with sex at all. Talk about backwards.

Our space brothers had this to say about religion:

"Religion is only a primitive concoction by man to command, suppress and exploit others, to which only spiritually weak life forms succumb."
The damage from circumcision far outweighs any claimed protection from aids. That's like saying one armed men never die in plane crashes, so all the men go out and get an arm cut off without stopping to consider the fact that the odds of dying in a plane crash are vanishingly remote relative to the population numbers.

Not to mention that there are some relatively simple ways to avoid getting AIDS... that do not involve mutilation of an important cluster of nerve endings that map to the brain.

But, since you have brought up the subject - and I am absolutely, categorically AGAINST it - (I was present once when an infant boy was circumcised and I have NEVER forgotten the horror of it!) - I think I will use this thread to collect the evidence AGAINST circumcision, beginning with my own thoughts on the subject.

You will find discussion of circumcision on the following pages:


where you will read the following:

The first stage, or circuit, is the oral-passive-receptive, and is imprinted by what is perceived to be the mother or first mothering object. It can be conditioned by nourishment or threat, and is mostly concerned with bodily security. Trauma during this phase can cause an unconsciously motivated mechanical retreat from anything threatening to physical safety.

In recent times I have given a lot of thought to this particular circuit because of the matter of circumcision. Having come to the tentative idea that the whole Judeo-Christian monotheistic rant was a major control program, I came face to face with the question: how and why has it worked so well for so many thousands of years? More than that, how was it imposed in the first place?

I puzzled over this for weeks. I thought about several things that Friedrich Nietzsche had said that struck me like thunderbolts of truth once I was able to really step back and look at the matter:

Neitzsche said:
The Jews are the most remarkable nation of world history because, faced with the question of being or not being, they preferred, with a perfectly uncanny conviction, being at any price; the price they had to pay was the radical falsification of all nature, all naturalness, all reality, the entire inner world as well as the outer, They defined themselves counter to all those conditions under which a nation was previously able to live, was permitted to live; they made of themselves an antithesis of natural conditions - they inverted religion, religious worship, morality, history, psychology, one after the other, in an irreparable way into the contradiction of their natural values.

...Christianity has waged a deadly war against the higher type of man. It has put a ban on all his fundamental instincts. It has distilled evil out of these instincts. It makes the strong and efficient man its typical outcast man. It has taken the part of the weak and the low; it has made an ideal out of its antagonism to the very instincts which tend to preserve life and well-being... It has taught men to regard their highest impulses as sinful - as temptations.

...What is Jewish, what is Christian morality? Chance robbed of its innocence; unhappiness polluted with the idea of "sin;" well-being represented as a danger, as a "temptation," a physiological disorder produced by the canker worm of conscience. [The Anti-Christ, 1888]
But, that's not to say that Nietzsche was any paragon himself, with his mysogynistic, misanthropic rants! He was, in fact declared insane in 1888.

Revolt against the whole civilized environment in which he was born is the keynote to Nietzsche's literary career. [Britannica, 11th ed.]
Nevertheless, he had a point about Judaism and Christianity (and any and all other monotheistic, dominator religions.)

So, there I was, pondering this and trying to figure out HOW and WHY people could be so completely taken in by this utter nonsense? How can educated members of the human race, in this day and age, with all the resources of knowledge and awareness available to those who have the desire and energy to search for truth, possibly buy into such myths?

It just staggered my mind to think about it.

I went back in my thinking to the whole Jehovah-I AM deal; the Moses story and all that; and went over the details as they are presented in the Bible for clues. And I came up against that most interesting demand of that crafty Lizard, Jehovah/Yahweh: circumcision - on the 8th day, no less.

What better way to ensure a deep, subconscious, distrust of women - not to mention an overwhelming terror at the very mention of the pain and suffering that might ensue from breaking the monotheistic covenant - than whacking a guy's pee-pee when he is interested only in being warm, cozy, and filling his tummy with warm, sweet milk from mother?!

Whoah! Talk about your basic abyssal cunning there!

The first "circuit" is concerned with what is safe and what is not safe. In our society, money is one of the primary items that is intimately tied to survival and biological security. Money represents survival. In addition to that, people who have been traumatized during the imprinting phase of the first circuit tend to view other people in an abstract way. It is "us and them." They also tend to be very easily threatened by disapproval of any sort because disapproval suggests the idea of extinction or loss of food supply. And, finally, those who have been negatively imprinted at this stage tend to have a chronic muscular armoring that prevents proper, relaxed breathing; they are "up tight."

One of the main characteristics of people who are heavily controlled by this circuit, or are "stuck" in this "oral phases," is that when they sense danger of any sort, whether actual or conceptual, all mental activity comes to a halt. Such people are chronically anxious and dependent - mostly on religion. They are not able to really understand what other people are feeling or what can happen in the future in regard to relationships, given a certain present situation. They only understand what is happening "now," and they can only feel what THEY feel. They cannot accurately grasp what others feel because they relate to others only as sensory objects.

And, how many men are circumcised? A LOT, I can tell you. And, besides the Jews, for years, the AMA advocated and urged circumcision of American babies for "hygienic" reasons. Hmmm...

As a side note, trauma or failure to bond at this oral phase tends to also lead to weight issues - either overweight or underweight.

The expression of healthy growth through this phase is the ability to retain the state of consciousness of the "natural child" who feels safe in the world no matter what they encounter.
I later discussed this with a Jewish doctor who had become interested in the matter. He did some research on "neural sheets" and discovered the idea that every part of the body maps to an area of the brain and that the area of the brain that is "connected" or "maps to" the foreskin is one that is particularly rich in the types of brain cells that are apparently involved in achieving states of higher consciousness. He was absolutely appalled to learn this.

So, considering that, as well as my own speculations about circumcision, we are not surprised that they have come up with a scare tactic to get every man on the planet to whack his pee-pee.
Now, to collect and archive some material that may otherwise disappear with the push to get every man whacked...

Jewish circumcision: an alternative perspective



As a Jew, I used to take ritual circumcision completely for granted. I watched the procedure many times, when a son was born to family or friends. It is unusual for a woman to watch, but I was a young medical student, unafraid, curious and, eventually horrified. My concern about this issue has arisen slowly, simply from what I have seen.

In the first section, I examine the reasons for circumcision, and compare some of the physiological and clinical findings about the procedure with popular Jewish beliefs about its nature and consequences. I consider the effect of the procedure on the mother as well as the child, and discuss the ethical implications. In the second section, I discuss some Jewish texts and traditions that could surprisingly, lend support to challenging the established practice of circumcision.

In the third section, I describe the historical and psychosocial factors that make challenging Jewish circumcision so problematic, and that sometimes lead to intensely negative responses to new information about it. I also discuss the vexed question of whether challenging Jewish circumcision is necessarily anti-Semitic.

In the penultimate section, I examine the received view that Jewish people practise circumcision because of God’s commandment to Abraham (in Genesis 17:11–14). I show that for most Jewish people, the reasons have more to do with a sense of belonging than with a sense of being divinely commanded. I then argue that circumcision is, nevertheless, not as essential to our Jewish identity as most of us have assumed. Finally, I consider the possibility of cultural evolution, providing examples from within and outside the Jewish community of how, despite the difficulties, customs can and do change.

Reasons for questioning religious circumcision

There are several reasons to reconsider the practice of religious circumcision, including the pain, trauma and complications associated with the procedure, the lack of previously supposed medical benefits, and the effect of circumcision upon the mother of the circumcised child.

Pain and trauma

Jewish boys are circumcised at 8 days of age, i.e. well within the neonatal period; no anaesthetic is used. The level of pain associated with the operation, whether judged by the babies screams or by objective physiologically indices such as heart rate and plasma cortisol levels, is severe. Even using a lignocaine injection for neonatal circumcision, Stang et al. [1] showed plasma cortisol levels of 331 nmol/L. whereas the normal level is 28-138 nmol/L. Similarly Benini et al. [2] found heart rates of 180 bpm in recently circumcised babies, which were only slightly reduced (to 160) by anaesthetic. Paediatrician Paul Fleiss, writing in Lancet, considers these cortisol levels and heart rates to be ‘consistent with torture’ [3].

Other researchers have found comparable physiological responses indicative of severe stress during circumcision, including dramatic rises in respiratory rate and trancutaneous oxygen, as well as plasma cortisol level and heart rate [4–6]. Circumcision is so painful that it has now, according to Stang et al. ‘become a model for the analysis of pain and stress responses in the newborn’ [1].

These findings contrast starkly with the beliefs commonly expressed in the Jewish community that ‘its only a little snip that doesn’t hurt’, and ‘it’s just like changing their nappy or cutting their fingernails’. Even though most babies scream, tremble and go pale or ever blue, many Jewish people will describe a circumcision they attended at which ‘the baby didn’t cry, in fact he just went to sleep’. This is taken to mean that the baby felt no pain. However, studies suggest that rother than feeling fine, these babies may actually be lapsing into a lethargic, semicomatose state as a reaction to overwhelming stress [7-9].

Another popular belief, perpetuated even by those Mohelim (ritual circumcisers) who are also doctors, is that ‘there are no nerve endings in the foreskin, so it can’t possibly hurt’. However, it has been clearly show that the foreskin is a complex and important sensory organ, containing many nerve endings, including the specialized Meissner’s corpuscles, similar to those found in the fingertips and lips [10].

In conversations about circumcision, many Jewish people claim that Jewish circumcision is less traumatic than, say, Muslim circumcision, precisely because it is performed at such an early age. The underlying myth, common until recently in the wider community, is that newborn babies simply do not feel pain. But medical research contradicts the wishful thinking of folk beliefs. Not only do newborn babies feel pain, they feel it more intensely, for longer and over a wider area of the body than do older children or adults subjected to the same stimulus. Fitzgerald and her team at University College London, have shown clearly that the nervous system of a newborn baby differs from that of an older child or adult, both anatomically and physiologically, so that what would constitute a light or harmless stimulus to the older child or adult actually produces pain in the newborn. Furthermore, newborns lack the inhibitory or ‘damping down’ mechanisms of the more mature nervous system, so they cannot protect themselves from the experience of pain in the way they could at a later stage. [11].

The developmental anatomy of the penis also suggests that the earlier circumcision is performed the more painful it will be. In the neonatal period, only 4% of children have a retractable foreskin. For 96% of Jewish babies therefore, circumcision will involve the forcible tearing of the foreskin from its attachment to the glans, as well as the cutting of its attachment to the sulcus. However, at the age of 3 years, 90% of boys have a retractable foreskin and this trauma would only apply to 10% of them [12].

Closely following (and contradicting) the ‘no pain’ story, one frequently encounters the following statement: ‘Alright, maybe it hurts, but it only lasts a moment and they forget about it the minute its over. They’re too young to have any memory of it’. In fact, the raw surface of the glans may bleed and be painful for several days after the circumcision, so the pain is far from momentary. Further, there is ample evidence that newborns do have some memory of the event, which takes the form, not of conscious remembering, but of a permanent restructuring of the nervous system. The result is an intensification of the behavioural response to subsequent painful stimuli, as though the nervous system has been ‘sensitized’. Thus, for example, Taddio et al. [13] found that pain responses in children being vaccinated were significantly greater in those who had been circumcised (several months previously) than in those who had not. Other studies show that pain experienced in early infancy can disrupt breast-feeding, mother-infant bonding [14] and sleeping patterns [15].

In addition to pain, circumcision is traumatic because it constitutes an experience of utter helplessness [16]. Not only is the child in great pain, but nothing he does can help to avoid or reduce the pain. His cries have no effect and movement to escape is impossible, because he is held down; he learns that he is powerless.


Many serious complications of ritual circumcision have been reported. [17], including haemorrhage, infection, meatal stenosis [18], amputation of the penis [19,20], trapped penis [21], urinary retention (frequently from tight bandaging) and renal impairment (rarely [22], UTI [23], septicaemia [24], and four cases of acute heart failure [25], Williams and Kapila [26] reported a horrifying list of surgical disasters leading to permanent severe damage to the penis.

I have listened to several Jewish women describe how their sons hemorrhaged severely after circumcision, requiring hospital admission and blood transfusion. In one case, an orthodox Jewish woman, whose only child had bled nearly to death, felt so traumatized that she chose to have no more children although deeply wanting them. She said ‘if I had another boy, I couldn’t bear to have him circumcised. But I also could not bear not to have him circumcised’. Her son is 16 years old now and has no siblings.

While haemorrhage, infection and the occasional tragic accident may be acceptable risks in surgery performed to treat disease, and to save life and limb, i.e. where the risks clearly outweigh the risks, they are unacceptable risks in ‘surgery’ that has no such healing function. As far as I have been able to ascertain, neither the Jewish nor the Muslim community in Britain keep any statistical records of the complications of circumcision performed by their practitioners.

Lack of presumed medical benefits

According to the Jewish religion, circumcision should be carried out purely for reasons of faith, not for any real or imagined medical benefits. Nevertheless, in conversations with secular and non-orthodox Jewish people, ‘hygiene’ and ‘preventive medicine’ are frequently given as reasons for continuing the practice. Most Jewish people seem unaware that claims for the prevention of cervical cancer, penile cancer, UTI, etc., have been thoroughly discredited [27], as were the claims for prevention of asthma, epilepsy and ‘masturbatory insanity’ which preceded them. In any case, preventive medicine is normally about choices that a free adult can make, relating to diet, lifestyle, screening programmes, etc. It is not usually about removing healthy body parts from infants.

Effects on the mother

The strongest instinct of the new mother is to hold, cherish and protect her baby. In the Jewish world, this natural and vital desire is brought into immediate and painful conflict with the demands of tradition. In gatherings of Jewish women over the past several years, I have listened to scores of Jewish mothers and grandmothers describing how they felt torn between loyalty to their child and loyalty to their tradition, at what should have been a time of resting and rejoicing. I have heard African and Muslim mothers describe the same agonizing dilemma. Usually, the circumcision goes ahead and the mother feels impotent, guilty, and full of regret, even many decades later. Many mothers say they only consented because they had been told it was a painless, minor procedure. Had they realized the degree of blood and trauma involved, they would never have agreed; they felt betrayed.

In Jewish law, it is the father not the mother, who is commanded to circumcise the boy. It is a rite of male bonding, designed (unconsciously), as are all such rites worldwide, to separate the baby boy from his mother and to claim him as ‘one of the men’ of the tribe. It was Abraham, not Sarah, who was commanded to circumcise. It is Jewish men, not the woman or children, who have defined circumcision as sacred. As Pollack points out [28], Jewish women now need to redefine what is sacred, and every mother knows in her heart that there is nothing sacred about taking a knife to a child’s genitals. There is nothing sacred about shattering a child’s inborn trust, his basic assumption that his parents will do their utmost to protect him from harm. Pollack states, ‘Circumision is fundamental to patricarchy, but it is not holy’ [29].

Ethical implications

Anyone subjecting an adult to what is permitted in regard to an 8-day-old baby would be charged with assault. If children and babies are to be regarded as fully human beings, then it must surely be unethical for them to be held down forcibly while a healthy functional part of their body is excised. It is not only that babies are helpless, or that they are too young to give consent. Their reactions, their screams, and that they have to be held down at all, are best and only way of indicating that they are actually withholding their consent.

Judaism, like all religious traditions, has many layers and many strands. In the next section, I show that despite the Biblical injunction to circumcise, support can be found from many Jewish sources for the view that circumcision of infants is unethical and should therefore be abandoned.

Textual support for change within Judaism

In Judaism, and in Islam, the human being is considered to be made in the image of God, and God is conceptualized as perfect. So one could not argue that interfering with God’s perfect creation is a form of blasphemy. In Judaism there is a law of ‘Shmirat Ha Guf’, the guarding or protecting of the body. Body-piercing, tattooing and amputation are all forbidden for this reason. Further, there is the Talmudic concept of ‘Tsa’ar ba’alei chayyim’, compassion for all living creatures. If compassion in all its fullness were applied to 8-day-old babies, circumcision would become impossible.

The literal commandment to circumcise that is found in Genesis appears in the later books of Deuteronomy and Isaiah with a metaphorical meaning. The prophet Isaiah urges people to ‘circumcise the foreskin of your hearts’, i.e. to melt the hard shell of defensive insensitivity with which each of us armours our innermost selves. This is highly inapplicable today; as we ‘circumcise the foreskins of our hearts’, we become able to hear the anguished cries of our babies.

The Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative Code of Jewish Law, says: ‘Extreme care should be taken not to circumcise an infant who is ailing, as the fulfilment of all ordinances is suspended if there is danger to human life. Moreover, the circumcision can be performed at a later date, but the life of a human being can never be restored’. [30] (emphasis added by present author).

The Talmud discusses at length the imperative of ‘Pikuach Nefesh’, the obligation to save human life in any situation in which it is endangered, whether the danger is immediate or only potential, as in the case of a condition which is not dangerous now but could suddenly deteriorate [31]. The rabbis derive this ruling from Leviticus 19:16; ‘Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour’. It could certainly be argued that circumcision of an 8-day-old baby constitutes a condition which could, and sometimes does, suddenly deteriorate.

The Talmud goes on to say (Hul. 10a) that ‘One should be more particular about matters concerning life and health than about ritual observances’. It insists, for example, that even the laws of the Sabbath must be broken to give medical treatment or comfort to a sick person or a postpartum woman (Yoma 85a). This is despite the fact that keeping the Sabbath is of the Ten Commandments; circumcision, significantly, is not.

Jewish law is an evolving process that has always taken into account new developments in science and understanding, and attempted to integrate them. Given what is known about life-threatening complications of neonatal circumcision, there is an argument from within Judaism to adapt Jewish law, so that the circumcision of helpless, non-consenting babies becomes forbidden, not demanded.

The medieval rabbi Maimonides, regarded as the greatest Jewish sage of all time, writes of circumcision: ‘……one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ … the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident … there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived of its covering from the beginning’ [32]. Maimonides was a physician as well as a rabbi. His words foreshadow current medical understanding of the protective and sexual functions of the foreskin. Although he was writing in defence of circumcision, the text might be interpreted very differently today.

Difficulties of questioning circumcision in the Jewish community

Many Jewish people, when they encounter the arguments outlined in the first section about the pain, trauma, and dangers of circumcision, say something along the lines of: ‘Well, you’re quite right. I can’t disagree with you. — I know its completely irrational, but I just feel we must carry on doing it’. Others become very angry, dismissing solid medical evidence and genuine humane concern as an anti-Semitic attack. To make sense of these responses, and of the tremendous resistance (i.e. fear manifesting as defensiveness) which will be encountered by any person challenging Jewish circumcision, whether from within or outside the community, the psychological meaning of circumcision for the Jewish people must be understood. To understand that requires some knowledge of Jewish history.

Persecutors of the Jews have always attempted to ban circumcision. That their motivation was the extermination of the Jewish people, rather than any humanitarian concern for children, is shown by the fact that circumcision is frequently punishable by death. In 168 BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria ordered his soldiers to execute circumcised Jewish babies and their parents. In CE 135, the Roman Emperor Hadrian forbade Jewish religious teaching and the keeping of the Sabbath, and made circumcision an offence punishable by death. Jews defied these decrees, and thousands were tortured and died the death of martyrs, refusing to abandon this symbol of their faith. The story was repeated in the Spanish Inquisition, under the Soviet government and under the Nazis. Circumcision thus became an emblem not just of faith, but of loyalty, courage and the defiant fight for freedom against terrible oppression. Even in the cattle-cars on the way to Auschwitz, Jews circumcised their children. They were doing what they believed to be right, affirming their identity and faith even in the depths of hell.

All Jewish people, including myself, carry this history in our collective memory, and any challenge to circumcision evokes it, whether consciously or unconsciously. Even the most well intentioned criticism can therefore sound like a massive threat. Circumcision has become, in Pollack’s words, ‘laminated to our psyches by generations upon generations of trauma’ [28].

As well as those features that are specific to Jewish history, there are other powerful reasons why ritual circumcision continues, i.e. psychological mechanisms common to any communities practising circumcision or equivalent rites. Familiarity breeds numbness and denial. The men present at a Bris Milah (Covenant of Circumcision; women are usually absent, from choice in the Reform Jewish world and by exclusion in Orthodox circles) have all been circumcised themselves. To them, it is the ‘normal’ state. They are present at a ‘celebration’, bringing their child into the Covenant. In a very real sense they do not hear the child’s screams of agony. This desensitization is a cross-cultural phenomenon; it was apparent in the obstetric wards of the 1970s and 1980s, where nurseries full of screaming newborn, isolated from human touch in cribs far away from their mothers, were approvingly dismissed with phrases such as ‘healthy pair of lungs’. This was also ‘normal’. For the circumcised Jewish man, therefore, it takes tremendous courage and insight to say ‘I have been damaged. My parents made a mistake. I won’t pass this wound on to my son’.

Fear of anti-Semitism must not be allowed to stifle dissent. Nevertheless, for those choosing to challenge Jewish circumcision from outside, it is necessary to know the history outlined above and to be aware of how any criticism may therefore be misinterpreted. It is also crucial to be absolutely certain that the message and motivation are free from racism in the present. Specifically, criticizing a custom must to degenerate into attacking or demonizing those who practise it. They are good-hearted people who love their children, but have grown up with a different set of rules. Most people of all races and religions do what they have always done, unquestioningly most of the time, and Jews, Muslims and others who circumcise are no exception. One way to avoid racism is to take the broad multicultural view, that we all have something to learn from each other. An example will make this clearer; many African mothers have their daughters genitally mutilated. White westerners find this appalling and wonder secretly whether the parents can really love their daughters. But then, many white western parents even now leave their young children to sob, alone, behind a closed door, night after night, because it is past 7.30 pm and ‘they must learn that bed-time means bed-time’. Any African mother would be appalled and would wonder secretly whether the parents can really love their children. She would tell us that young children need human contact, carrying and cuddling, whatever time of day or night; she would tell us that we are doing something wrong.

Anti-Semitism is a particularly virulent form of racism and avoiding it while challenging Jewish circumcision must be a matter of deep intent, not merely of style. This is not only because racism is counterproductive in the effort to educate people fully about the reality of circumcision, but because racism is itself as cruel and unethical as the circumcision of helpless babies. I am challenging circumcision because it is the particular form of violence to children that occurs in my own culture: however, every culture has its own form of oppression that needs attention.

Religious circumcision and Jewish identity

The usual defence advanced for Jewish circumcision is that it is commanded by God (Genesis 17: 11–14) so it simply must be done. However, on closer examination, this statement (which in any case is not amenable to rational argument) turns out not to be the real reason, except for the tiny minority of Jews who take the Bible literally. Surveys show that even among traditional Jewish women (those attending orthodox synagogues), only 32% consider belief in God to be central to being a good Jew [33]. Most Jewish people do not carry out most of the 613 biblical commandments. Even the ultra-orthodox would not dream of carrying out the whole of the circumcision commandment, which actually states that servants and non-Jewish house-guests must also be circumcised! (Genesis 17: 12).

The inconsistency is even more striking when considering Reform, Liberal, atheist and unaffiliated Jewish people. The Reform and Liberal movements select freely among commandments, modernizing the tradition and re-interpreting biblical texts in metaphorical, socially conscious ways. Atheist and unaffiliated Jewish people have often abandoned all contact with the tradition. Yet all these groups still circumcise their sons, indicating that they feel psychologically just as ‘bound’ as the strictest traditionalist. What binds them is not a sense of divine command, but a fear of not belonging; there is a real terror of being the one to ‘break the chain’. The weight of history and the resultant social pressure mediated through the family are very difficult forces to resist.

For all of these reasons, and those discussed in the previous section, circumcision seems to be inextricably welded to Jewish identity and challenges to that identity are experienced as challenges to Jewish survival itself. Yet there are arguments to show that Jewish identity is not, after all, as dependent upon continuing circumcision as it might appear.

First, whose Jewish identity? Only that of the men. Jewish women have maintained their identity perfectly well for 4000 years, with no equivalent marking or scarring, and to say that ‘circumcision is vital to Jewish identity’ is to exclude 52% of the Jewish population. Second, although Jewish people like to think of circumcision as an identifying sign unique to them, it clearly is not. It is also practised by Muslims, non-Muslim Africans, Australian Aborgines and much of white North America (and Korea, see Kim and Pang, this supplement), and is described in Egyptian papri from 4000 BCE. Thirdly, although some rabbis still believe that circumcision will keep Jewish males ‘within the fold’, the reality is that it has not stopped many young Jewish men from leaving the faith. Lastly, in Jewish law (Halacha), the son of a Jewish mother is de facto Jewish, whether circumcised or not.

Conclusion: Possibilities of cultural change

All cultures evolve and change, and what was indepensible in one era becomes redundant in the next. Generations of Chinese women were crippled by footbinding, a practice that was considered absolutely essential to the Chinese way of life, until the 1920s, when feminist campaigners successfully stopped it, and the predicted ‘collapse of the culture’ failed to materialize. Similarly, the Sabine people of Eastern Uganda have recently abandoned their long-entrenched, traditional practice of female genital mutilation; their culture, too, has survived.

In the British Jewish community, a small but growing member of young parents are refusing to circumcise their baby boys. They are beginning to create alternative non-violent rituals, gentle ceremonies to welcome babies of both sexes into the Jewish community and the wider world. The greatest fear of Jewish parents, that their child will be ostracized from the community if he is not circumcised turns out to be a circular, self-perpetuating argument, only true so long as everyone believes it. As more parents have the courage to say ‘no’, then the intact Jewish boy becomes no longer the exception, no longer the ‘odd one out’. In fact, the uncircumcised Jewish boys and their families have remained firmly within the Jewish community. Judaism has many joyful and life-affirming customs to maintain and pass on, and I believe Jewish culture will be strengthened, not weakened, by our outgrowing of neonatal circumcision.

I have shown that circumcision is painful, traumatic and potentially dangerous, but that because of our past, it carries huge symbolic significance to the collective Jewish psyche. However, I suggest that our tremendous historical suffering does not negate or justify the continuing pain of our baby boys. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, interviewed on the BBC [34], stated that the purpose of circumcision was to ‘sanctify sexuality’. When asked how it could do so, he replied, ‘It’s not causal, its symbolic’. However, in the final analysis, circumcision is not symbolic for the baby: it is horribly real. Now is the time to lay the knife aside and to move forward into the 21st century with a form of ritual that is truly welcoming and that is truly purely symbolic.


1 Stang HJ, Gunnar MR, Snellman L, Condon LM, Kestenbaum R. Local anaesthesia for neonatal circumcision: Effects on stress and cortisol response. JAMA 1988; 259: 1507–11

2 Benini F, Johnson C, Faucher D, Aranda JV. Topical anaesthesia during circumcision of newborn infants. JAMA 1993; 270: 850–3

3 Fleiss PM. Letter. Lancet 1995; 345: 927

4 Rawlings DJ, Miller PA, Engle RR. The effect of circumcision on transcutaneous PO2 in term infants. Am J Dis Child 1980; 134: 676–8

5 Gunnar MR, Fisch RO, Korsvik S et al. The effects of circumcision on serum cortisol and behaviour. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1981; 6: 265–75

6 Talbert LM, Kraybill EN, Potter HD. Adrenal cortical response to circumcision in the neonate. Obstet Gynecol 1976; 48: 208–10

7 Emde RN, Harmon RJ, Metcalf D et al. Stress and neonatal sleep. Psychosom Med 1971; 33: 491–7

8 Gunnar MR, Malone S, Vance G et al. Quiet sleep and levels of plasma durining recovery from circumcision in newborns. Child Dev 1985; 56: 824–34

9 Marshall RE, Stratton WC, Moore JA et al. Circumcision: 1. Effects on newborn behaviour. Infant Behav Dev 1980; 3: 1–14

10 Taylor JR, Lockwood AP, Taylor AJ. The prepuce: Specialised mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision. Br J Urol 1996; 77: 291—5

11 Fitzgerald M. The birth of pain. MRC News 1998: 78: 20–3

12 Gairdner D. The fate of the foreskin. Br Med J 1949; 2: 1433–7

13 Taddio A, Goldbach M, Ipp M, Stevens BB, Koren G. Effects of neonatal circumcision on pain response during vaccination in boys. Lancet 1995; 345: 291-2

14 Anand KJS, Hickey PR. Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus. N Engl J Med 1987; 317: 1321–29

15 Anders T, Chalemian R. The effects of circumcision on sleep-wake states in human neonates. Psychosom Med 1974; 36: 174–

16. Odent M. Learned helplessness: a concept of the fuhure. In Denniston GC, Milos MF, eds, Sexual Mutilations – A Human Tragedy. Chapt. 10. New York: Plenum Press, 1997: 121-4

17 Kaplan GW. Complications of circumcision. Urol Clin North Am 1983; 10: 543–9

18 Robson WL, Leung AK. The circumcision question. Postgrad Med 1992; 91: 237–44

19 Audry G, Buis J, Vazquez MP, Gruner M. Amputation of penis after circumcision — penoplasty using expandable prosthesis. Eur J Pediatr Surg 1994; 4: 44–5

20 Yilmaz AF, Sarikaya S, Yildiz S, Buyakalpelli R. Rare complication of circumcision: penile amputation and reattachment. Eur Urol 1993; 23: 423–4

21 Bergeson PS, Hopkin RJ, Bailey RB Jr, McGill LC, Platt JP. The inconspicuous penis. Pediatrics 1993; 92: 794–9

22 Craig JC, Grigor CW, Knight JF. Acute obstructive uropathy — a rare complication of circumcision. Eur J Pediatr 1994; 153: 369-71.

23 Cohen HA, Drucker MM, Vainer S et al. Post-circumcision urinary tract infection. Clin Pediatr Phila 1992; 31: 322–4

24 Menahem S. Complications from ritual circumcision: pathogenesis and possible prevention. Isr J Med Science 1981; 17: 45–8

25 Mor A, Eshel G, Aladjem M, Mundel G. Tachycardia and heart failure after ritual circumcision. Arch Dis Child 1987; 62: 80–1

26 Williams N, Kapila L. Complications of circumcision. Br J Surg 1993: 80: 1231-6

27 Warren JP. NORM UK and the medical case against circumcision. In Denniston GC, Milos MF, eds. Sexual Mutilations — A Human Tragedy. Chapt 7, New York: Plenum Press, 1997: 96–8

28 Pollack M. Redefining the sacred. In: Denniston GC, Milos MF, eds. Sexual Mutilations — A Human Tragedy. Chapt 16. New York: Plenum Press, 1997: 163–72

29 Pollack M. Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective. In Weiner K, Moon A, eds, Jewish Women Speak Out. Seattle: Canopy Press, 1995: 185

30 Ganzfried S. (translated Goldin HE). Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law. Chapt. 163, New York: Dover Publications, 1904, 1956: 378.

31 Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 13, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House 1971: 510

32 Maimonides M. The Guide for the Perplexed. (Translated by Friedlander M). New York: Dover Publications, 1904, 1956: 378

33 Schmool M, Miller S. Women in the Jewish Community: Survey Report. London: Adler House, 1994: 23

34. Sacks J. BBC Radio 4. Interview 19th Sept. 1992


J. Goodman, MA, MBChB, Full-time mother.
Correspondence: J. Goodman, c/o BJU, 25 John St. London WC1N 2BL, UK.


* Goodman J. Jewish circumcision: an alternative perspective. BJU Int 1999;83 Suppl 1:22-27.

Circumcision: A Guide for expectant Parents


Parents want to make the best decision for the health of their children, but not all Australian state health departments and medical bodies are equally forthcoming with information for parents on the risks of circumcision and care of the normal (intact) penis. This brochure answers frequently asked questions about male circumcision, and complements the recent leaflet (Circumcision: A parents’ guide) issued by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

What is male circumcision?

The word circumcision means “to cut aroundᾠ. In male infants, circumcision is an operation which involves tearing the foreskin* away from the glans (head) of the penis, cutting along the top of the foreskin, then clamping the foreskin and cutting it off. The skin of the penis is a complex movable sheath with no clear indication of where it should be cut during a circumcision. This means that the amount of foreskin removed from one circumcision to the next can be very different, and no two circumcisions are the same.
Does any medical organisation recommend circumcision of boys?

No medical organisation anywhere in the world recommends routine circumcision of boys. Many organisations state that there is no medical indication for routine circumcision, including the RACP, the British Medical Association, and the American Academy of Paediatrics. For full details see
Is circumcision less painful for a baby than for an adult?

Infants experience excruciating pain during circumcision and for weeks afterwards, and they can show behavioural changes such as frequent crying, avoidance of physical contact, reduced feeding, and sleep disturbance. Local anaesthetic creams such as EMLA are not adequate, and a general anaesthetic poses a significant risk for infants under the age of six months. Adult circumcision is less painful as men can undergo general anaesthesia and receive pain relief during the post-operative period.
Isn’t circumcision just a “tiny snipᾠ with no risks?

The risks of circumcision include bleeding, infection, damage to the glans and frenulum**, excessive skin removal, scarring, loss of penis, and even death. Infant circumcision carries more risks than adult circumcision, as a baby’s penis is very small and difficult to operate on, and more penile skin is removed than in adults. Excessive tissue removal is a common problem, and this can cause painful erections and even restrict the growth of the penis at puberty.
Will a boy feel upset if he looks different to Dad?

All penises are different, just like noses. Boys don’t have plastic surgery so that their noses look like their fathers’, so why would a baby need his penis to look the same? Different doctors perform circumcision differently, and some remove a lot of skin while others remove only a little. This means the chance of a circumcised boy looking exactly like his father is very slight.
Can circumcision prevent UTIs in infants?

Some research suggests that circumcised infants may have a lower incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Approximately 0.188% of circumcised infants and 0.702% of intact infants develop a UTI. However, this difference is slight, and female infants have a far higher incidence of UTI than circumcised or intact boys (5%). Mothers will be happy to know that immediate breastfeeding protects male and female infants from such infections. If a UTI does occur, the most conservative treatment is with antibiotics and more rigorous follow-up in rare cases of recurrent infections. Chronic UTIs are often the result of abnormalities in the urethra or bladder which will usually require surgery.
Should a boy’s foreskin be retracted everyday for cleaning with soap and water?

The prepuce* of most newborn boys is still adhered to the glans and cannot be retracted. Forcible retraction can result in tearing, scarring and infection, with the result that circumcision may becomes medically necessary because of foreskin damage. A boy will retract his foreskin when he is ready to do so, and it is normal for this to happen any time between the ages of 3 and 13. After the foreskin has become retractable boys can be shown how to gently retract and wash under the foreskin with water. Diluted soap can help with cleaning, but it must be thoroughly rinsed away to avoid irritation of the foreskin’s sensitive inner surface. Too much soap can cause skin problems such as eczema which used to be blamed on the foreskin.
Are most men in the world circumcised?

Only about 20% of men worldwide are circumcised. Most men (80%) are not circumcised, including the vast majority in Britain, Europe, non-Moslem Asia, and South America. Circumcised men are a minority confined to the Middle East, some African tribes, Islamic regions of Asia, and the USA. The number of circumcised men in Australia and Canada is in steady decline.
Do women prefer circumcised partners?

Women in circumcising countries sometimes state a preference for circumcised partners, because this is what they are accustomed to. This effect of cultural conditioning should not legitimise the practice. Many women also report smoother intercourse and greater sexual satisfaction with intact partners compared to circumcised partners (1). Most women are more interested in whether their partner is loving and kind.
Does circumcision affect a man’s sexual function and pleasure?

Circumcision removes complex tissue containing thousands of highly specialised fine touch receptors and nerve fibres. The loss of sexual sensitivity is proportional to the amount of foreskin removed; a tight circumcision that prevents movement of the foreskin during intercourse and other sexual activity is particularly damaging. Men circumcised as infants may be unaware of this, but many men circumcised as adults report a definite loss of feeling and versatility.
Can circumcision prevent penile or cervical cancer?

The risk factors for penile and cervical cancer are cigarette smoking and exposure to various strains of the human papilloma or wart virus (HPV), through unprotected sex with multiple partners. Penile cancer is an extremely rare disease with less than 1 case per 100,000 men and a median age of diagnosis of 64 years. Circumcised men do develop penile cancer, which can develop on the circumcision scar.
Can circumcision prevent HIV and other STDs?

Circumcision does not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but many studies claim that circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of acquiring an STD. These studies are often done in poor and under-developed countries and do not take into account personal hygiene, complex social customs, education level, medical services, traditional sexual practices, and genetic factors in susceptibility to disease. Similar studies in industrialised nations, such as Australia, find that circumcision does not reduce the risk of STD transmission.
What about phimosis and paraphimosis?

A small percentage of boys and men have foreskins with an unusually small opening, which can be difficult to retract (phimosis) or become stuck behind the glans and cause swelling (paraphimosis). For paraphimosis, a doctor can compress the glans and let the foreskin return to its normal position. In both cases, the opening of the foreskin can then be increased by twice daily application of a steroid cream for 4-6 weeks (2). In severe but rare cases where scarring has occurred, a small incision may also be needed. Although paraphimosis is a rare problem, it can be serious, and urgent medical attention is required.
Is an intact penis longer?

Yes. An Australian survey (3) found that circumcised men had shorter erect penises than intact men, and the difference was statistically significant. This makes good sense as many circumcisions in Australia are too severe, and a tight result can restrict growth of the penis during puberty.
How did circumcision start in Australia?

During the prudish Victorian era, doctors in Britain (and colonies) and the USA adopted circumcision and other genital mutilations to control sexual behaviour in boys and girls, and to prevent STDs in adult men and women. Circumcision, clitoridectomy and hysterectomy were prescribed in the false belief that they could prevent or to cure masturbation, tuberculosis, mental illness, and an array of other unlikely diseases. Not all British doctors supported these treatments, and female circumcision was banned in 1867, when a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body was recognised. In contrast, male circumcision was continued into the 20th century by misguided physicians who claimed it was necessary in all cases of infantile phimosis and that it could protect men and women from STDs and cancer.
Why are most Australian boys not circumcised?

Male circumcision lost favour in Britain in 1949, when the lack of necessity and the dangers of the operation were recognised These included bleeding, damage to the glans, excessive skin removal and 16 deaths a year in Britain alone (4). Australian paediatricians have discouraged the practice since the 1960s, and the incidence of circumcision has fallen from over 70% of boys during the 1960s to 49% in 1973 and 39% in 1980. In 2002 about 12% of boys were circumcised, but there is wide variation among the states.
Why are more boys circumcised in Queensland and NSW?

Western Australia and Victoria have the lowest incidence of circumcision, at around 5%, Queensland has the highest at 20%, and New South Wales the second highest at 15%. Infants born in rural areas are also more likely to be circumcised than those born in a capital city (5). An Australia-wide medical investigation should be conducted to account for this variation in circumcision practice. Doctors and hospitals in all regions of Australia have a duty of care to give parents full information on the risks and lack of benefits of circumcision, and instructions on how to care for the normal penis.
Who has the right to decide?

During the decision making process, the most important point for parents to remember is that, just as it is a woman’s right to choose in matters concerning her own body, so it is a man’s right to choose in matters concerning his body, including his penis. Circumcision Information Australia (CIA) has received many complaints from adult men who are unhappy about having been circumcised as infants or children. Circumcision is cosmetic surgery, and the appearance of the penis is a matter of personal preference. Only the owner of the penis has the right to decide if he would like its appearance, structure and function altered by circumcision or any other needless procedure.

How can parents get more help with their decision?

Expectant parents should read both the this leaflet and the full Policy Statement on Circumcision issued by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in September 2002. These documents are available on the internet or can be obtained in print form by contacting the RACP. For a more comprehensive discussion on circumcision, see the short book Doctors Re-examine Circumcision, at your local or state library.

After reading this material, parents should not hesitate to take these documents along to their family physician for discussion. Alternatively, you can email us at circinfoaust(AT) or phone Dr George Williams on 02 9543 0222.

* Prepuce or Foreskin: the section of the movable sheath of skin on the penis which covers and protects the glans while the penis is not erect (flaccid).

** Frenulum: a very sensitive band of tissue connecting the inner foreskin to the glans on the underside of the penis, often referred to as the male G-spot.

1. O’Hara, K. & O’Hara J. (1999) The effect of male circumcision on the sexual enjoyment of the female partner, BJU Int. 83, Suppl. 1, 79-84.

2. Berdeu, D., Sauze, L., Ha-Vinh, P. & Blum-Boisgard, C. (2001) Cost effectiveness analysis of treatment for phimosis: a comparison of surgical and medicinal approaches and their economic effect, BJU Int., 87, 3, 239-244.

3. Richters, J., Gerofi, J., Donovan, B. (1995) Are condoms the right size(s)? A method for self-measurement of the erect penis, Venereology, 8(2), 77-81

4. Gairdner, D. (1949) The fate of the foreskin: a study of circumcision, BMJ, 2, 1433-1437.

5. Spilsbury, K., Semmens, J. B., Wisniewski, Z. S., and Holman, C. D. (2003) Circumcision for phimosis and other medical indications in Western Australian boys, Med J Aust 178(4), 155-8
Recommended reading

At the RACP website

Circumcision: A parents’ guide to routine circumcision of male infants and boys Policy Statement on Circumcision
At your local or state library

Doctors Re-Examine Circumcision (2002) by Thomas Ritter & George Denniston, Third Millennium Publishing Company ISBN 0-9711878

This FAQ was written by Dr George Williams and Shane Peterson for Circumcision Information Australia, June 2003
About the authors

George Williams is a paediatrician in Menai NSW, and also works at the Children’s Hospital in Sydney. While completing postgraduate medical training in Canada, George heard of a baby who died because his circumcision wound became infected with gangrene. George has read many other reports of deaths and serious injuries following infant circumcision, and he feels obliged to educate parents about this unethical and unnecessary practice. George established NOCIRC of Australia in 1992, and has since consulted with media and written a number of articles for textbooks and parenting magazines. He was awarded the Australia’s Parents Magazine Award of Merit in 1996 for his “efforts to make the world a better place for childrenᾠ.

Shane Peterson underwent reconstructive surgery at the age of 18 to repair an over-generous circumcision that took place a week after his birth in Western Australia during the 1970s. Shane studied science in Perth then moved to Canberra for postgraduate studies in medical science. He has extensively researched the available literature on circumcision. Shane’s surgical experience as an adult has made him very aware of the loss of sexual enjoyment when sensory tissue is removed from the penis. Shane and George aim to increase public awareness of the negative affects of circumcision, and the value of the foreskin as a sensory organ for male sexual function.

Circumcision That Didn't Heal Kills Boy

NewsNet5 - Cleveland, OH
October 20, 1998

NOTE: NewsNet5 subsequently revised it's headline to:
Anesthesia Complications Killed Baby

CLEVELAND, Posted 6:46 a.m. October 20, 1998 -- A 3-week-old boy died while doctors were trying to fix a problem with his circumcision.

[Note: NewsNet5 subsequently revised this first paragraph to:"Doctors say anesthesia complications killed a 3-week-old boy while doctors were trying to fix a problem with his circumcision."While anesthesia may have been the immediate cause of death, the death was secondary to complications arising from a useless and non-medically indicated circumcision.]

A pediatrician noticed the circumcision performed on Dustin Evans two weeks ago wasn't healing properly and the urethra was blocked. A routine surgical procedure was needed to correct the problem and clear the hole.

While being administered anesthesia on Friday, the boy's heart stopped, said his father, Dustin Evans Sr., 27. Doctors at Rainbow Babies Childrens Hospital attempted to save the baby by massaging his heart and inserting breathing tubes.

He was kept on a life-support ventilator system during the day until it was determined that his heart was healthy, but he had suffered massive brain damage. Dustin was disconnected from life support about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"You think, 'What could go wrong with a circumcision?' " Evans said."The next thing I know he's dead."

Hospital spokeswoman Eileen Korey said Monday she was limited in what she could say about his death. "We express the hospital's deepest condolences to the family," she said. "But in this case, as in all others, we are unable to talk about details because of confidentiality reasons."

Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj said she has no autopsy findings to disclose and says the matter is still under investigation. Denver physician Randall Clark with the American Society of Anesthesiologists says 25 percent of all anesthesia complications in children occur in those under one month old.

The above piece was copied from NOHARMM
National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males


This tragic loss is now being blamed on anesthesia and it's been stated that the death was unrelated to circumcision.

Imagine someone getting hit by a drunk driver. The victim requires surgery and then dies from the anesthesia. It would be ludicrous to then claim that the death was unrelated to the drunk driver.

Had the boy not been circumcised, he would not have been subjected to the dangers of anesthesia which was required to repair the complications of a circumcision.

The dangers of promoting male circumcision against HIV/AIDS
Author: Bernard Coetzee
Affiliation: Masters student in ecology
University of Pretoria, South Africa
Date: 25 July 2006

You recently reported on a study that advocated widespread male circumcision in Africa to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (see Male circumcision could save millions from HIV/AIDS).

While I am very open to pragmatic solutions to the diversity of problems faced by the African continent, I would caution against sweeping statements such as: "Increasing circumcision to include all men in Africa could prevent six million HIV infections and three million deaths over 20 years, say researchers".

My concern is that the public might see this as justification for gruesome circumcisions used in traditional initiation rituals in Africa.

Three boys have died this year in South Africa's Limpopo province during such rituals. In the Eastern Cape province, circumcisions have claimed 19 lives (see links below).

Furthermore, men might think that they are 'immune' to HIV/AIDS if they are circumcised. The study suggests that if "all" men in Africa are circumcised, it will help to curb HIV/AIDS. But would it not be more practical, and more ethical, to encourage all men to use protection?

As Victor Hugo said, science has the first word on everything, but the last word on nothing. While the researchers whose study you reported present a means of helping curb HIV transmission, they appear to have failed to assess the societal implications of their proposals.

While I am sure that the researchers did not imply that that every man should be circumcised, the assumption that circumcisions could be actively promoted is, bluntly stated, ridiculous.

While the HIV/AIDS situation is horrible, the researchers' 'scientific' solution is even more so.

Boy's Death Highlights New Dangers of Neonatal Circumcision

Posted by PRWEB news

Increased Dangers of Neonatal Circumcision

Infants experiencing circumcision are more subject to Hypovolemic Shock and Methicillin Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus (MSRA)

(PRWEB) March 30, 2004--The present medical policy in the United States and some other English-speaking nations is to offer and perform elective non-therapeutic circumcision of infant males at the request of the parents. New evidence of increased risks associated with that surgical procedure has emerged. This statement's purpose is to inform hospital administrators, medical doctors, and parents of those increased risks.

Hypovolemic Shock. The recent, highly publicized, death by hypovolemic shock of a healthy Canadian boy caused by hemorrhage from his circumcision wound has forced a reexamination of the risks occurred from bleeding.

The prepuce is highly vascularized, so it is likely to hemorrhage when cut, and severing the frenular artery is very common. Infants can tolerate only about a 20 percent blood loss before hypovolemia, hypovolemic shock, and death. A 4000 gram male newborn has only 11.5oz (340 ml) of total blood volume at birth, 85 ml per kilogram of weight. Blood loss of only 2.3oz, (68 ml) less than one-quarter of a cup, 20% of total blood volume at birth is sufficient to cause hypovolemia. The quantity of blood loss that might kill an infant (85ml) is easily concealed in today's highly absorbent disposable diaper. Many newborns, and especially premature infants, weigh much less and a smaller amount of blood loss would be sufficient to trigger hypovolemic shock in those infants. Circumcision of infants, therefore, carries the inherent danger of hypovolemic shock and death.

Methicillin Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus. This month's edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood (London) reports a substantial increase in bacteremia (viable bacteria circulating in the blood) caused by Methcillin Resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) in children. The article (Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004;89:378-379) identifies vancomycin as the treatment of choice against MRSA, but the authors caution that vancomycin resistant Staphyloccus aureus is now emerging. The authors report that "MRSA bacteremia is associated with a higher mortality rate, longer hospital stays and is a significant independent risk factor for death."

St. Catherine's Hospital on Long Island experienced an outbreak of MRSA infection among circumcised boys in the newborn nursery in 2003; Arlington Hospital in Arlington, VA had a similar outbreak in 1995; and the naval hospital in North Carolina had an outbreak of non-resistant S. aureus in 1998.

Titre du document / Document title

Serious complications of routine ritual circumcision in a neonate : hydro-ureteronephrosis, amputation of glans penis, and hyponatraemia

Auteur(s) / Author(s)

Affiliation(s) du ou des auteurs / Author(s) Affiliation(s)
(1) E. Wolfson medical cent., dep. paediatrics, Holon 58100, ISRAEL

Résumé / Abstract

A 13-day-old infant developed bilateral hydroureteronephrosis, severe hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and acidosis, as a result of urethral damage following circumcision. The hydroureteronephrosis and biochemical abnormalities normalized after resolution of the penile injury. Conclusion Infants with urinary retention following circumcision may develop hydroureteronephrosis and electrolyte disturbances. An awareness of the potential dangers of circumcision may help to limit its complications

Revue / Journal Title

European journal of pediatrics (Eur. j. pediatr.) ISSN 0340-6199 CODEN EJPEDT

Source / Source

1995, vol. 154, no4, pp. 314-315 (6 ref.)

Langue / Language


Editeur / Publisher

Springer, Berlin, ALLEMAGNE (1975) (Revue),2172,131305,00.html

Circumcision claims yet another life in Limpopo
July 16, 2006, 14:15

Another initiate has died in Limpopo. The 14-year-old initiate died at the Mooiplass initiation school outside Lebowakgomo.

This brings to three the number of initiates who have died at initiation schools in the province this year. Five initiates died at initiation schools in the province last year.

Motlafela Mojapelo, a provincial police spokesperson, says an inquest to investigate will be opened and the post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Eastern Cape circumcision toll reaches 19

The circumcision death toll in the Eastern Cape has reached 19 with news on Thursday of the death of another would-be initiate, the provincial health department said.

An official said the 18-year-old youth died after being circumcised at an illegal initiation school at Mgwuenyane village in the Libode area of Transkei.

Police said no arrests had been made yet.

Earlier this week, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities warned action was needed to stop initiation deaths from ruining the custom.

"These tragedies undermine the very essence of this historically tested cultural practice," commission chairperson Mongezi Guma said.

The Case Against Circumcision
Paul M. Fleiss, MD

Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, is assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California Medical Center. He is the author of numerous scientific articles published in leading national and international medical journals.

Published in Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living, Winter 1997, pp. 36--45.

"Routine circumcision of babies in the United States did not begin until the Cold War era. Circumcision is almost unheard of in Europe, Southern America, and non-Muslim Asia. In fact, only 10 to 15 percent of men throughout the world are circumcised."

"The natural penis requires no special care. A child's foreskin, like his eyelids, is self-cleansing. Forcibly retracting a baby's foreskin can lead to irritation and infection. The best way to care for a child's intact penis is to leave it alone."

The Foreskin Is Necessary

By Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH

Western countries have no tradition of circumcision. In antiquity, the expansion of the Greek and Roman Empires brought Westerners into contact with the peoples of the Middle East, some of whom marked their children with circumcision and other sexual mutilations. To protect these children, the Greeks and Romans passed laws forbidding circumcision.1 Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has passed many similar laws.2,3 The traditional Western response to circumcision has been revulsion and indignation.

Circumcision started in America during the masturbation hysteria of the Victorian Era, when a few American doctors circumcised boys to punish them for masturbating. Victorian doctors knew very well that circumcision denudes, desensitizes, and disables the penis. Nevertheless, they were soon claiming that circumcision cured epilepsy, convulsions, paralysis, elephantiasis, tuberculosis, eczema, bed-wetting, hip-joint disease, fecal incontinence, rectal prolapse, wet dreams, hernia, headaches, nervousness, hysteria, poor eyesight, idiocy, mental retardation, and insanity.4

In fact, no procedure in the history of medicine has been claimed to cure and prevent more diseases than circumcision. As late as the 1970s, leading American medical textbooks still advocated routine circumcision as a way to prevent masturbation.5 The antisexual motivations behind an operation that entails cutting off part of the penis are obvious.

The radical practice of routinely circumcising babies did not begin until the Cold War era. This institutionalization of what amounted to compulsory circumcision was part of the same movement that pathologized and medicalized birth and actively discouraged breastfeeding. Private-sector, corporate-run hospitals institutionalized routine circumcision without ever consulting the American people. There was no public debate or referendum. It was only in the 1970s that a series of lawsuits forced hospitals to obtain parental consent to perform this contraindicated but highly profitable surgery. Circumcisers responded by inventing new "medical" reasons for circumcision in an attempt to scare parents into consenting.

Today the reasons given for circumcision have been updated to play on contemporary fears and anxieties; but one day they, too, will be considered irrational. Now that such current excuses as the claim that this procedure prevents cancer and sexually transmitted diseases have been thoroughly discredited, circumcisers will undoubtedly invent new ones. But if circumcisers were really motivated by purely medical considerations, the procedure would have died out long ago, along with leeching, skull-drilling, and castration. The fact that it has not suggests that the compulsion to circumcise came first, the "reasons," later.

Millions of years of evolution have fashioned the human body into a model of refinement, elegance, and efficiency, with every part having a function and purpose. Evolution has determined that mammals' genitals should be sheathed in a protective, responsive, multipurpose foreskin. Every normal human being is born with a foreskin. In females, it protects the glans of the clitoris; in males, it protects the glans of the penis. Thus, the foreskin is an essential part of human sexual anatomy.

Parents should enjoy the arrival of a new child with as few worries as possible. The birth of a son in the US, however, is often fraught with anxiety and confusion. Most parents are pressured to hand their baby sons over to a stranger, who, behind closed doors, straps babies down and cuts their foreskins off. The billion-dollar-a-year circumcision industry has bombarded Americans with confusing rhetoric and calculated scare tactics.

Information about the foreskin itself is almost always missing from discussions about circumcision. The mass circumcision campaigns of the past few decades have resulted in pandemic ignorance about this remarkable structure and its versatile role in human sexuality. Ignorance and false information about the foreskin are the rule in American medical literature, education, and practice. Most American medical textbooks depict the human penis, without explanation, as circumcised, as if it were so by nature.
What Is the Foreskin?

The foreskin is a uniquely specialized, sensitive, functional organ of touch. No other part of the body serves the same purpose. As a modified extension of the penile shaft skin, the foreskin covers and usually extends beyond the glans before folding under itself and finding its circumferential point of attachment just behind the corona (the rim of the glans). The foreskin is, therefore, a double-layered organ. Its true length is twice the length of its external fold and comprises as much as 80 percent or more of the penile skin covering.6,7

The foreskin contains a rich concentration of blood vessels and nerve endings. It is lined with the peripenic muscle sheet, a smooth muscle layer with longitudinal fibers. These muscle fibers are whirled, forming a kind of sphincter that ensures optimum protection of the urinary tract from contaminants of all kinds.

Like the undersurface of the eyelids or the inside of the cheek, the undersurface of the foreskin consists of mucous membrane. It is divided into two distinct zones: the soft mucosa and the ridged mucosa. The soft mucosa lies against the glans penis and contains ectopic sebaceous glands that secrete emollients, lubricants, and protective antibodies. Similar glands are found in the eyelids and mouth.

Adjacent to the soft mucosa and just behind the lips of the foreskin is the ridged mucosa. This exquisitely sensitive structure consists of tightly pleated concentric bands, like the elastic bands at the top of a sock. These expandable pleats allow the foreskin lips to open and roll back, exposing the glans. The ridged mucosa gives the foreskin its characteristic taper.

On the underside of the glans, the foreskin's point of attachment is advanced toward the meatus (urethral opening) and forms a bandlike ligament called the frenulum. It is identical to the frenulum that secures the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The foreskin's frenulum holds it in place over the glans, and, in conjunction with the smooth muscle fibers, helps return the retracted foreskin to its usual forward position over the glans.
Retraction of the Foreskin

At birth, the foreskin is usually attached to the glans, very much as a fingernail is attached to a finger. By puberty, the penis will usually have completed its development, and the foreskin will have separated from the glans.8 This separation occurs in its own time; there is no set age by which the foreskin and glans must be separated. One wise doctor described the process thus, "The foreskin therefore can be likened to a rosebud which remains closed and muzzled. Like a rosebud, it will only blossom when the time is right. No one opens a rosebud to make it blossom."9

Even if the glans and foreskin separate naturally in infancy, the foreskin lips can normally dilate only enough to allow the passage of urine. This ideal feature protects the glans from premature exposure to the external environment.

The penis develops naturally throughout childhood. Eventually, the child will, on his own, make the wondrous discovery that his foreskin will retract. There is no reason for parents, physicians, or other caregivers to manipulate a child's penis. The only person to retract a child's foreskin should be the child himself, when he has discovered that his foreskin is ready to retract.

Parents should be wary of anyone who tries to retract their child's foreskin, and especially wary of anyone who wants to cut it off. Human foreskins are in great demand for any number of commercial enterprises, and the marketing of purloined baby foreskins is a multimillion-dollar-a-year industry. Pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies use human foreskins as research material. Corporations such as Advanced Tissue Sciences, Organogenesis, and BioSurface Technology use human foreskins as the raw materials for a type of breathable bandage.10
What Are the Foreskin's Functions?

The foreskin has numerous protective, sensory, and sexual functions.

* Protection: Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands-glands that produce the sebum, or oil, that moisturizes our skin.11 The foreskin produces the sebum that maintains proper health of the surface of the glans.

* Immunological Defense: The mucous membranes that line all body orifices are the body's first line of immunological defense. Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as lysozyme.12 Lysozyme is also found in tears and mother's milk. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, an immune system component, abound in the foreskin's outer surface.13 Plasma cells in the foreskin's mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infection.14

* Erogenous Sensitivity: The foreskin is as sensitive as the fingertips or the lips of the mouth. It contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.15 These specialized nerve endings can discern motion, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations of texture.16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

* Coverage During Erection: As it becomes erect, the penile shaft becomes thicker and longer. The double-layered foreskin provides the skin necessary to accommodate the expanded organ and to allow the penile skin to glide freely, smoothly, and pleasurably over the shaft and glans.

* Self-Stimulating Sexual Functions: The foreskin's double-layered sheath enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth over the penile shaft. The foreskin can normally be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion is the mechanism by which the penis and the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans are stimulated.

* Sexual Functions in Intercourse: One of the foreskin's functions is to facilitate smooth, gentle movement between the mucosal surfaces of the two partners during intercourse. The foreskin enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina nonabrasively inside its own slick sheath of self-lubricating, movable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the male's foreskin is missing.

* The foreskin fosters intimacy between the two partners by enveloping the glans and maintaining it as an internal organ. The sexual experience is enhanced when the foreskin slips back to allow the male's internal organ, the glans, to meet the female's internal organ, the cervix-a moment of supreme intimacy and beauty.

The foreskin may have functions not yet recognized or understood. Scientists in Europe recently detected estrogen receptors in its basal epidermal cells.24 Researchers at the University of Manchester found that the human foreskin has apocrine glands.25 These specialized glands produce pheromones, nature's chemical messengers. Further studies are needed to fully understand these features of the foreskin and the role they play.

Care of the Foreskin

The natural penis requires no special care. A child's foreskin, like his eyelids, is self-cleansing. For the same reason it is inadvisable to lift the eyelids and wash the eyeballs, it is inadvisable to retract a child's foreskin and wash the glans. Immersion in plain water during the bath is all that is needed to keep the intact penis clean.26

The white emollient under the child's foreskin is called smegma. Smegma is probably the most misunderstood, most unjustifiably maligned substance in nature. Smegma is clean, not dirty, and is beneficial and necessary. It moisturizes the glans and keeps it smooth, soft, and supple. Its antibacterial and antiviral properties keep the penis clean and healthy. All mammals produce smegma. Thomas J. Ritter, MD, underscored its importance when he commented, "The animal kingdom would probably cease to exist without smegma."27

Studies suggest that it is best not to use soap on the glans or foreskin's inner fold.28 Forcibly retracting and washing a baby's foreskin destroys the beneficial bacterial flora that protect the penis from harmful germs and can lead to irritation and infection. The best way to care for a child's intact penis is to leave it alone. After puberty, males can gently rinse their glans and foreskin with warm water, according to their own self-determined needs.

How Common Is Circumcision?

Circumcision is almost unheard of in Europe, South America, and non-Muslim Asia. In fact, only 10 to 15 percent of men throughout the world are circumcised, the vast majority of whom are Muslim.29 The neonatal circumcision rate in the western US has now fallen to 34.2 percent.30 This relatively diminished rate may surprise American men born during the era when nearly 90 percent of baby boys were circumcised automatically, with or without their parents' consent.

How Does Circumcision Harm?

The "medical" debate about the "potential health benefits" of circumcision rarely addresses its real effects.

* Circumcision denudes: Depending on the amount of skin cut off, circumcision robs a male of as much as 80 percent or more of his penile skin. Depending on the foreskin's length, cutting it off makes the penis as much as 25 percent or more shorter. Careful anatomical investigations have shown that circumcision cuts off more than 3 feet of veins, arteries, and capillaries, 240 feet of nerves, and more than 20,000 nerve endings.31 The foreskin's muscles, glands, mucous membrane, and epithelial tissue are destroyed, as well.

* Circumcision desensitizes: Circumcision desensitizes the penis radically. Foreskin amputation means severing the rich nerve network and all the nerve receptors in the foreskin itself. Circumcision almost always damages or destroys the frenulum. The loss of the protective foreskin desensitizes the glans. Because the membrane covering the permanently externalized glans is now subjected to constant abrasion and irritation, it keratinizes, becoming dry and tough. The nerve endings in the glans, which in the intact penis are just beneath the surface of the mucous membrane, are now buried by successive layers of keratinization. The denuded glans takes on a dull, grayish, sclerotic appearance.

* Circumcision disables: The amputation of so much penile skin permanently immobilizes whatever skin remains, preventing it from gliding freely over the shaft and glans. This loss of mobility destroys the mechanism by which the glans is normally stimulated. When the circumcised penis becomes erect, the immobilized remaining skin is stretched, sometimes so tightly that not enough skin is left to cover the erect shaft. Hair-bearing skin from the groin and scrotum is often pulled onto the shaft, where hair is not normally found. The surgically externalized mucous membrane of the glans has no sebaceous glands. Without the protection and emollients of the foreskin, it dries out, making it susceptible to cracking and bleeding.

* Circumcision disfigures: Circumcision alters the appearance of the penis drastically. It permanently externalizes the glans, normally an internal organ. Circumcision leaves a large circumferential surgical scar on the penile shaft. Because circumcision usually necessitates tearing the foreskin from the glans, pieces of the glans may be torn off, too, leaving it pitted and scarred. Shreds of foreskin may adhere to the raw glans, forming tags and bridges of dangling, displaced skin.32

Depending on the amount of skin cut off and how the scar forms, the circumcised penis may be permanently twisted, or curve or bow during erection.33 The contraction of the scar tissue may pull the shaft into the abdomen, in effect shortening the penis or burying it completely.34

* Circumcision disrupts circulation: Circumcision interrupts the normal circulation of blood throughout the penile skin system and glans. The blood flowing into major penile arteries is obstructed by the line of scar tissue at the point of incision, creating backflow instead of feeding the branches and capillary networks beyond the scar. Deprived of blood, the meatus may contract and scarify, obstructing the flow of urine.35 This condition, known as meatal stenosis, often requires corrective surgery. Meatal stenosis is found almost exclusively among boys who have been circumcised.

Circumcision also severs the lymph vessels, interrupting the circulation of lymph and sometimes causing lymphedema, a painful, disfiguring condition in which the remaining skin of the penis swells with trapped lymph fluid.

* Circumcision harms the developing brain: Recent studies published in leading medical journals have reported that circumcision has long-lasting detrimental effects on the developing brain,36 adversely altering the brain's perception centers. Circumcised boys have a lower pain threshold than girls or intact boys.37 Developmental neuropsychologist Dr. James Prescott suggests that circumcision can cause deeper and more disturbing levels of neurological damage, as well. 38, 39

* Circumcision is unhygienic and unhealthy: One of the most common myths about circumcision is that it makes the penis cleaner and easier to take care of. This is not true. Eyes without eyelids would not be cleaner; neither would a penis without its foreskin. The artificially externalized glans and meatus of the circumcised penis are constantly exposed to abrasion and dirt, making the circumcised penis, in fact, more unclean. The loss of the protective foreskin leaves the urinary tract vulnerable to invasion by bacterial and viral pathogens.

The circumcision wound is larger than most people imagine. It is not just the circular point of union between the outer and inner layers of the remaining skin. Before a baby is circumcised, his foreskin must be torn from his glans, literally skinning it alive. This creates a large open area of raw, bleeding flesh, covered at best with a layer of undeveloped proto-mucosa. Germs can easily enter the damaged tissue and bloodstream through the raw glans and, even more easily, through the incision itself.

Even after the wound has healed, the externalized glans and meatus are still forced into constant unnatural contact with urine, feces, chemically treated diapers, and other contaminants.

Female partners of circumcised men do not report a lower rate of cervical cancer,40 nor does circumcision prevent penile cancer.41 A recent study shows that the penile cancer rate is higher in the US than in Denmark, where circumcision, except among Middle-Eastern immigrant workers, is almost unheard of.42 Indeed, researchers should investigate the possibility that circumcision has actually increased the rate of these diseases.

Circumcision does not prevent acquisition or transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, the US has both the highest percentage of sexually active circumcised males in the Western world and the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Rigorously controlled prospective studies show that circumcised American men are at a greater risk for bacterial and viral STDs, especially gonorrhea,43 nongonoccal urethritis,44 human papilloma virus,45 herpes simplex virus type 2,46 and chlamydia.47

* Circumcision is always risky: Circumcision always carries the risk of serious, even tragic, consequences. Its surgical complication rate is one in 500.48 These complications include uncontrollable bleeding and fatal infections.49 There are many published case reports of gangrene following circumcision.50 Pathogenic bacteria such as staphylococcus, Proteus, Pseudomonas, other coliforms, and even tuberculosis can cause infections leading to death.51, 52 These organisms enter the wound because it provides easy entry, not because the child is predisposed to infection.

Medical journals have published numerous accounts of babies who have had part or all of their glans cut off while they were being circumcised.53,54,55 Other fully conscious, unanesthetized babies have had their entire penis burned off with an electrocautery gun.56,57, 58 The September 1989 Journal of Urology published an account of four such cases.59 The article described the sex-change operation as "feminizing genitoplasty," performed on these babies in an attempt to change them into girls. The March 1997 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine described one young person's horror on learning that "she" had been born a normal male, but that a circumciser had burned his penis off when he was a baby.60 Many other similar cases have been documented.61,62 Infant circumcision has a reported death rate of one in 500,000.63,64

* Circumcision harms mothers: Scientific studies have consistently shown that circumcision disrupts a child's behavioral development. Studies performed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine showed that circumcision is followed by prolonged, unrestful non-REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep.65 In response to the lengthy bombardment of their neural pathways with unbearable pain, the circumcised babies withdrew into a kind of semicoma that lasted days or even weeks.

Numerous other studies have proven that circumcision disrupts the mother-infant bond during the crucial period after birth. Research has also shown that circumcision disrupts feeding patterns. In a study at the Washington University School of Medicine, most babies would not nurse right after they were circumcised, and those who did would not look into their mothers' eyes.66

* Circumcision violates patients' and human rights: No one has the right to cut off any part of someone else's genitals without that person's competent, fully informed consent. Since it is the infant who must bear the consequences, circumcision violates his legal rights both to refuse treatment and to seek alternative treatment. In 1995, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics stated that only a competent patient can give patient consent or informed consent.67 An infant is obviously too young to consent to anything. He must be protected from anyone who would take advantage of his defenselessness. The concept of informed parental permission allows for medical interventions in situations of clear and immediate medical necessity only, such as disease, trauma, or deformity. The human penis in its normal, uncircumcised state satisfies none of these requirements.

Physicians have a duty to refuse to perform circumcision. They also must educate parents who, out of ignorance or misguidance, request this surgery for their sons. The healthcare professional's obligation is to protect the interests of the child. It is unethical in the extreme to force upon a child an amputation he almost certainly would never have chosen for himself.

Common Sense

To be intact, as nature intended, is best. The vast majority of males who are given the choice value their wholeness and keep their foreskins, for the same reason they keep their other organs of perception. Parents in Europe and non-Muslim Asia never have forced their boys to be circumcised. It would no more occur to them to cut off part of their boys' penises than it would to cut off part of their ears. Respecting a child's right to keep his genitals intact is normal and natural. It is conservative in the best sense of the word.

A circumcised father who has mixed feelings about his intact newborn son may require gentle, compassionate psychological counseling to help him come to terms with his loss and to overcome his anxieties about normal male genitalia. In such cases, the mother should steadfastly protect her child, inviting her husband to share this protective role and helping him diffuse his negative feelings. Most parents want what is best for their baby. Wise parents listen to their hearts and trust their instinct to protect their baby from harm. The experience of the ages has shown that babies thrive best in a trusting atmosphere of love, gentleness, respect, acceptance, nurturing, and intimacy. Cutting off a baby's foreskin shatters this trust. Circumcision wounds and harms the baby and the person the baby will become. Parents who respect their son's wholeness are bequeathing to him his birthright-his body, perfect and beautiful in its entirety.

For More Information


Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC), 2442 N.W. Market Street, Suite 42 Seattle, WA 98107 206-368-8358

The National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), PO Box 2512 San Anselmo, CA 94979-2512 415-488-9883

The National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM), PO Box 460795 San Francisco, CA 94146-0795 415-826-9351

Nurses for the Rights of the Child, 369 Montezuma, Suite 354 Santa Fe, NM 87501 505-989-7377


Available from bookstores, from the publishers, or from NOCIRC.

Bigelow, Jim, PhD. The Joy of Uncircumcising! Exploring Circumcision: History, Myths, Psychology, Restoration, Sexual Pleasure and Human Rights. 2nd ed. Aptos, CA: Hourglass, 1995. [Out of Print]

Denniston, George C., MD, MPH, and Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN, eds. Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy. (Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1996). New York: Plenum Press, 1997.

Goldman, Ronald, PhD. Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma: How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All. Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997.

Goldman, Ronald, PhD. Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective. 2nd ed. Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997.

O'Mara, Peggy, ed. Circumcision: The Rest of the Story-A Selection of Articles, Letters, and Resources 1979- 1993. Santa Fe, NM: Mothering,1993.

Ritter, Thomas J., MD, and George C. Denniston, MD. Say No to Circumcision! 40 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Respect His Birthright and Keep Your Son Whole, 2nd ed. Aptos, CA: Hourglass, 1996.

Whose Body, Whose Rights? Examining the Ethics and the Human Rights Issue of Infant Male Circumcision. Award-winning documentary. 56 min. VHS. Personal use: VideoFinders, 1-800-343-4727
Educational facilities

UC Center for Media and Independent Learning 2000 Center Street, 4th Floor Berkeley, CA 94704 510-642-0460.

For World Wide Web ordering and preview:

1. T. J. Ritter and G. C. Denniston, Say No to Circumcision: 40 Compelling Reasons, 2nd ed. (Aptos, CA: Hourglass, 1996),6-20.

2. "Incipit Libellus De Ecclesiasticis Disciplinis et Religione Christiana Collectus. Liber II.XC, XCI" in Patrologiæ Cursus Completus , vol. 132 (Paris: Apud Garnier Fratres, Editores et J. P. Migne Successores, 1880), 301-302.

3. S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the XIIth Century, vol. 2, ed. K. R. Stow (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 246-247.

4. See Note 10, 17-40.

5. M. F. Campbell, "The Male Genital Tract and the Female Urethra," in Urology, eds. M. F. Campbell and J. H. Harrison, vol. 2, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1970), 1836.

6. See photographic series: J. A. Erickson, "Three Zones of Penile Skin." In M. M. Lander, "The Human Prepuce," in G. C. Denniston and M. F. Milos, eds., Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 79-81.

7. M. Davenport, "Problems with the Penis and Prepuce: Natural History of the Foreskin" (photograph 1), British Medical Journal 312 (1996): 299-301.

8. J. Øster, "Further Fate of the Foreskin," Archives of Disease in Childhood 43 (1968): 200-203.

9. H. L. Tan, "Foreskin Fallacies and Phimosis," Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore 14 (1985): 626-630.

10. F. A. Hodges, "Short History of the Institutionalization of Involuntary Sexual Mutilation in the United States," in G. C. Denniston and M. F. Milos, eds., Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 35.

11. A. B. Hyman and M. H. Brownstein, "Tyson's 'Glands': Ectopic Sebaceous Glands and Papillomatosis Penis," Archives of Dermatology 99 (1969): 31-37.

12. A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, "Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce," British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901.

13. G. N. Weiss et al., "The Distribution and Density of Langerhans Cells in the Human Prepuce: Site of a Diminished Immune Response?" Israel Journal of Medical Sciences 29 (1993): 42-43.

14. P. J. Flower et al., "An Immunopathologic Study of the Bovine Prepuce," Veterinary Pathology 20 (1983):189-202.

15. Z. Halata and B. L. Munger, "The Neuroanatomical Basis for the Protopathic Sensibility of the Human Glans Penis," Brain Research 371 (1986): 205-230.

16. J. R. Taylor et al., "The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and Its Loss to Circumcision," British Journal of Urology 77 (1996): 291-295.

17. H. C. Bazett et al., "Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Thermometric Conductivity," Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 27 (1932): 489-517.

18. D. Ohmori, "Über die Entwicklung der Innervation der Genitalapparate als Peripheren Aufnahmeapparat der Genitalen Reflexe," Zeitschrift für Anatomie und Entwicklungsgeschichte 70 (1924): 347-410.

19. A. De Girolamo and A. Cecio, "Contributo alla Conoscenza dell'innervazione Sensitiva del Prepuzio Nell'uomo," Bollettino della Societa Italiana de Biologia Sperimentale 44 (1968): 1521-1522.

20. A. S. Dogiel, "Die Nervenendigungen in der Haut der äusseren Genitalorgane des Menschen," Archiv für Mikroskopische Anatomie 41 (1893): 585-612.

21. A. Bourlond and R. K. Winkelmann, "L'innervation du Prépuce chez le Nouveau-né," Archives Belges de Dermatologie et de Syphiligraphie 21 (1965): 139-153.

22. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Erogenous Zones: Their Nerve Supply and Its Significance," Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic 34 (1959): 39-47.

23. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Cutaneous Innervation of Human Newborn Prepuce," Journal of Investigative Dermatology 26 (1956): 53-67.

24. R. Hausmann et al., "The Forensic Value of the Immunohistochemical Detection of Oestrogen Receptors in Vaginal Epithelium," International Journal of Legal Medicine 109 (1996): 10-30.

25. See Note 12.

26. American Academy of Pediatrics, Newborns: Care of the Uncircumcised Penis: Guidelines for Parents (Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1994).

27. See Note 1.

28. See Note 1.

29. S. A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, "Jehovah, His Cousin Allah, and Sexual Mutilations," In: Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy, eds. G. C. Denniston and M. F. Milos (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 41-62.

30. National Center for Health Statistics of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 1994.

31. See Note 17.

32. G. T. Klauber and J. Boyle, "Preputial Skin-Bridging: Complication of Circumcision," Urology 3 (1974): 722-723.

33. J. P. Gearhart, "Complications of Pediatric Circumcision," in Urologic Complications, Medical and Surgical, Adult and Pediatric, ed. F. F. Marshall (Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1986), 387-396.

34. R. D. Talarico and J. E. Jasaitis, "Concealed Penis: A Complication of Neonatal Circumcision," Journal of Urology 110 (1973): 732-733.

35. R. Persad et al., "Clinical Presentation and Pathophysiology of Meatal Stenosis Following Circumcision," British Journal of Urology 75 (1995): 90-91.

36. A. Taddio et al., "Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Responses during Vaccination in Boys," Lancet 345 (1995): 291-292.

37. A. Taddio et al., "Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Response during Subsequent Routine Vaccination," Lancet 349 (1997): 599-603.

38. J. W. Prescott, "Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure: Why the One and Not the Other?" Truth Seeker 1 (1989): 14-21.

39. R. Goldman, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997), 139-175.

40. M. Terris et al., "Relation of Circumcision to Cancer of the Cervix," American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 117 (1973): 1056-1065.

41. C. J. Cold et al., "Carcinoma in Situ of the Penis in a 76-Year-Old Circumcised Man," Journal of Family Practice 44 (1997): 407-410.

42. M. Frisch et al., "Falling Incidence of Penis Cancer in an Uncircumcised Population (Denmark 1943-90)," British Medical Journal 311 (1995): 1471.

43. B. Donovan et al., "Male Circumcision and Common Sexually Transmissible Diseases in a Developed Nation Setting," Genitourinary Medicine 70 (1994): 317-320.

44. G. L. Smith et al., "Circumcision as a Risk Factor for Urethritis in Racial Groups," American Journal of Public Health 77 (1987): 452-454.

45. L. S. Cook et al., "Clinical Presentation of Genital Warts among Circumcised and Uncircumcised Heterosexual Men Attending an Urban STD Clinic," Genitourinary Medicine 69 (1993): 262-264.

46. I. Bassett et al., "Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Infection of Heterosexual Men Attending a Sexual Health Centre," Medical Journal of Australia 160 (1994): 697-700.

47. E. O. Laumann et al., "Circumcision in the United States: Prevalence, Prophylactic Effects, and Sexual Practice," Journal of the American Medical Association 277 (1997): 1052-1057.

48. W. F. Gee and J. S. Ansell, "Neonatal Circumcision: A Ten-Year Overview: With Comparison of the Gomco Clamp and the Plastibell Device," Pediatrics 58 (1976): 824-827.

49. G. W. Kaplan, "Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America 10 (1983): 543-549.

50. S. J. Sussman et al., "Fournier's Syndrome: Report of Three Cases and Review of the Literature," American Journal of Diseases of Children 132 (1978): 1189-1191.

51. B. V. Kirkpatrick and D. V. Eitzman, "Neonatal Septicemia after Circumcision," Clinical Pediatrics 13 (1974): 767-768.

52. J. M. Scurlock and P. J. Pemberton, "Neonatal Meningitis and Circumcision," Medical Journal of Australia 1 (1977): 332-334.

53. G. R. Gluckman et al., "Newborn Penile Glans Amputation during Circumcision and Successful Reattachment," Journal of Urology 153 (1995): 778-779.

54. B. S. Strimling, "Partial Amputation of Glans Penis during Mogen Clamp Circumcision," Pediatrics 87 (1996): 906-907.

55. J. Sherman et al., "Circumcision: Successful Glandular Reconstruction and Survival Following Traumatic Amputation," Journal of Urology 156 (1996): 842-844.

56. J. R. Sharpe and R. P. Finney, "Electrocautery Circumcision," Urology 19 (1982): 228.

57. C. K. Pearlman, "Caution Advised on Electrocautery Circumcisions," Urology 19 (1982): 453.

58. C. K. Pearlman, "Reconstruction Following Iatrogenic Burn of the Penis," Journal of Pediatric Surgery 11 (1976):121-122.

59. J. P. Gearhart and J. A. Rock, "Total Ablation of the Penis after Circumcision with Electrocautery: A Method of Management and Long-Term Followup," Journal of Urology 142 (1989):799-801.

60. M. Diamond and H. K. Sigmundson, "Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-Term Review and Clinical Implications," Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 151 (1997): 298-304.

61. J. Money, "Ablatio Penis: Normal Male Infant Sex-Reassigned as a Girl," Archives of Sexual Behavior 4 (1975): 65-71.

62. D. A. Gilbert et al., "Phallic Construction in Prepubertal and Adolescent Boys," Journal of Urology 149 (1993): 1521-1526.

63. R. S. Thompson, "Routine Circumcision in the Newborn: An Opposing View," Journal of Family Practice 31 (1990): 189-196.

64. T. E. Wiswell, "Circumcision Circumspection," New England Journal of Medicine 336 (1997): 1244-1245.

65. R. N. Emde et al., "Stress and Neonatal Sleep," Psychosomatic Medicine 33 (1971): 491-497.

66. R. E. Marshall et al., "Circumcision: II. Effects upon Mother-Infant Interaction," Early Human Development 7 (1982): 367-374.

67. Committee on Bioethics, "Informed Consent, Parental Permission, and Assent in Pediatric Practice," Pediatrics 95 (1995): 314-317.

Infant Circumcision: "What I Wish I Had Known"

by Marilyn Fayre Milos

Published in The Truth Seeker, "Crimes of Genital Mutilation." (July/August) 1989; 1(3):3.

I didn't know what circumcision was when I consented to have my three sons circumcised. My doctor had told me the surgery was a necessary health measure, that it didn't hurt, and that it only took a moment to perform... like cutting the umbilical cord, I thought. I certainly wasn't prepared when, in nursing school several years later, I saw the surgery for the first time.

We students filed into the newborn nursery to find a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top across the room. He was struggling against his restraints - tugging, whimpering, and then crying helplessly. No one was tending the infant, but when I asked my instructor if I could comfort him she said "Wait till the doctor gets here." I wondered how a teacher of the healing arts could watch someone suffer and not offer assistance. I wondered about the doctor's power which could intimidate others from following protective instincts. When he did arrive, I immediately asked the doctor it I could help the baby. He told me to put my finger into the baby's mouth; I did, and the baby sucked. I stroked his little head and spoke softly to him. He began to relax and was momentarily quiet.

The silence was soon broken by a piercing scream - the baby's reaction to having his foreskin pinched and crushed as the doctor attached the clamp to his penis. The shriek intensified when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the glans (head of the penis), tearing the two structures apart. (They are normally attached to each other during infancy so the foreskin can protect the sensitive glans from urine and feces.) The baby started shaking his head back and forth - the only part of his body free to move - as the doctor used another clamp to crush the foreskin lengthwise, which he then cut. This made the opening of the foreskin large enough to insert a circumcision instrument, the device used to protect the glans from being severed during the surgery.

The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill continuous screams. How could anyone say circumcision is painless when the suffering is so obvious? My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain. How much longer could this go on?

During the next stage of the surgery, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument and then, finally, amputated it. The baby was limp, exhausted, spent.

I had not been prepared, nothing could have prepared me, for this experience. To see a part of this baby's penis being cut off - without an anesthetic - was devastating. But even more shocking was the doctor's comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby, "There's no medical reason for doing this." I couldn't believe my ears, my knees became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe that medical professionals, dedicated to helping and healing, could inflict such pain and anguish on innocent babies unnecessarily.

What had I allowed my own babies to endure? and why?

The course of my life was changed on that day in 1979. I have now dedicated my life to bringing an end to this horrendous practice.


—Walt Whitman
The Children of Adam
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