Tom Gualtieri says, “the odds being 5 in every 100 are not the kind of odds I would to take a bet on should I have a son.”
Last year, in August of 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their position on circumcision, amending their earlier policy. In previous years (1971, 1975, 1983) the AAP had stated “that there was no valid medical indication for routine circumcision in the neonatal.” In 2012 their policy stated “new scientific evidence shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys …” They further stated “infant male circumcision should be covered by insurance, which would increase access to the procedure for families who choose it.”
This change in the AAP’s policy conflicts directly with opinions of pediatric societies in most European nations as well as Australia and Canada.
After last year’s statement, a team of 38 doctors and scientists from 12 European nations, all representatives of medical associations for pediatrics, pediatric surgery, and pediatric urology in Northern Europe, released their own statement condemning the AAP’s opinion. The 8-member AAP task force, they say, reviewed evidence that has been called into question.
In their rebuttal, the international panel concluded, “claimed health benefits are … questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context … Circumcision fails to meet the commonly accepted criteria for the justification of preventive medical procedures in children … has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm.”
Pretty strong stuff.
The results of a small study compiled by Danish researchers were published in the May 2013 Danish Medical Journal. The study used file data for 315 boys who had undergone circumcision from 1996-2003, with follow-up care data incorporated through 2011. Of the subjects 5% experienced significant complications. The researcher I consulted about this study told me, “significant is bad.” In other words, the use of the vague word “significant” is not as vague as it seems. “Significant” complications, in this context, means one or more corrective procedures were necessary. In some cases, irreparable, permanent harm could prevent normal use of the penis and its sexual function (provided you don’t already believe circumcision to be “irreparable harm.”)
Dr. M. David Gibbons, Associate Professor, Pediatric Urology at Georgetown University School of Medicine (who has an impressive list of affiliations in his field) says:
In my practice, as a pediatric urologist, I manage the complications of neonatal circumcision … in a two-year period, I was referred greater than 275 newborns and toddlers with complications of neonatal circumcision. Forty-five percent required corrective surgery — minor as well as major, especially for amputative injury. [With] 300 pediatric urologists in this country who have practices similar to mine … one can do the math.
Though the Danish study indicates only 5% of boys had “significant” complications, the odds being 5 in every 100 are not the kind of odds I would to take a bet on should I have a son.
In a Savage Love column from 2004, a young man wrote to Dan Savage to say, “I am 24 years old and lost my entire glans penis, the head of my dick, in a botched [neonatal] circumcision. Basically I have a shaft but there’s no head at the end …” Savage used this young man’s example in response to a reader’s inquiry about circumcising her expected son:
… even if the odds are low—even if they’re infinitesimal … I would rather teach my son to wash under his foreskin than assume even the tiniest risk of him losing the head of his penis in a botched circumcision.