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Circumcision - Male Genital Mutilation

CIRCUMCISION MY POSITION

Mark D. Reiss, M.D. (revised 2003)

I am a 69 year old retired physician, a Jew who is an active member of a Conservative synagogue, and a grandfather.

When I was in Medical School in the 1950s, almost all newborn males were circumcised. Despite the fact that prophylactic surgery was not generally performed, we were taught that circumcision was the correct and healthy thing to do. It was thought to control masturbation, decrease cancer risk, and help curtail sexually transmitted diseases. We learned nothing of foreskin anatomy and function. Infant nervous systems were thought to be undeveloped and their pain was so trivialized that it was almost ignored. As a young physician, I participated in many circumcisions. Over the years Ive witnessed brit milah in the homes of friends and family. I was mildly uncomfortable with the practice, but like most physicians, and like most Jews, I said and did nothing to question circumcision.

Three years ago, as I was about to become a grandfather for the first time, my interest in the subject became nore focused. I learned that more and more physicians now realize that any potential benefits of circumcision are far outweighed by its risks and drawbacks. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that Routine circumcision is not necessary. Whether done by a physician in the hospital, or a mohel in a ritual brit milah, the procedure has significant complication rates of infection, hemorrhage and even death. Mortality may actually be higher than thought since some of these deaths have not been attributed to circumcision, but listed only under their secondary causes, such as hemorrhage or infection. I've learned of the very important role the foreskin has in the protection of the head of the penis in the infant, and in sexual functioning in adulthood. It has also been shown that the newborn feels pain even Rmore acutely than adults do, and that many of the infants who stop crying during circumcision are actually in a state of traumatic shock. To my amazement I learned that the USA is now the only country in the world routinely circumcising babies for non-religious reasons.

With these overwhelming reasons not to circumcise, I began to look at the practice of ritual circumcision in the Jewish community and I learned that: circumcision is not an identity issue. You do not need to be circumcised to be Jewish any more than the need to observe many other Jewish laws. The bottom line is this: if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish, period. And in the Reform tradition, patrilineal descent is also accepted. Among Jews in Europe (only 40% of newborn Jewish boys in Sweden are being circumcised), South America, and even in Israel, circumcision is not universal. Growing numbers of American Jews are now leaving their sons intact as they view circumcision as a part of Jewish law that they can no longer accept. Alternative brit bli milah or brit shalom ceremonies (ritual naming ceremony without cutting) are being performed by some rabbis. Increasing numbers of intact boys are going to religious school, having bar mitzvahs, and taking their place as young adults in the Jewish community.

As a Jewish grandfather, I want to assure young couples about to bring a child into the world, that there are other members of the Jewish older generation, including other Jewish physicians, and even some rabbis, who feel as I do. If your heart and instincts tell you to leave your son intact, listen!

Pediatricians turn away from circumcision

The United States is the only country that routinely circumcises baby boys for non-religious reasons

CNN, U.S.A.
March 1, 1999

ATLANTA (CNN) -- American pediatricians are turning away from the practice of routine circumcision, concluding that doctors have no good medical reason to perform the procedure.

The United States is the only country in the world that routinely removes the foreskins of infant boys. Critics of circumcision got additional ammunition Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a leading medical organization.

The academy concluded the benefits "are not compelling enough" for circumcision to be routinely administered.

baby screaming in pain

A newborn winces in pain after a circumcision

Monday's statement, published in the March edition of the journal Pediatrics, was the academy's first in 10 years on the practice. But in recent years, medical societies in Canada, Britain and Australia have come out in opposition to routine circumcision.

Critics have long contended that removing the foreskin from the penis is traumatic, medically unnecessary and may reduce sexual pleasure later in life. As one critic, Dr. George Denniston, put it: "Who are we to question mother nature?"

Canadian researchers, whose study was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, studied the heart rates and crying patterns of babies during different stages of circumcision.

In fact, in the study they found the babies suffered so much trauma that they stopped the study part way through.

The results were so compelling that they took the unusual step of stopping the study before it was scheduled to end rather than subjecting any Read More ..bies to circumcision.

One baby stopped breathing for 25 seconds from the trauma of having part of his foreskin severed.  Read More ..

"..Circumcision May CAUSE Urinary Tract Infection"

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are rare, and mainly occur in the first year of life. They are several times Read More .. common in girls than boys (but of course surgery is never considered for girls).

They are painful, and women's experience of them is a powerful inducement to have sons circumcised, if they imagine that this will protect them. In fact, a significant proportion of boys contract UTIs even though they are circumcised. A study in Israel found they mainly occurred in girls at four months, but in boys soon after they were circumcised....  Now an Australian study suggests circumcision may cause urinary problems.  Read More ..