As long as it’s for the children

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that, if I ever have a son, I will leave him intact. Yet, I have a fear associated with that decision that is only reinforced by this recent story from Winnipeg:

St. Boniface Hospital has suspended circumcisions of male newborns after a mix-up where the procedure was performed on the wrong baby.

Authorities say they’re investigating the incident.

“We’re concerned about any event of this nature because obviously a child was circumcised before his parents had a chance to make a decision and to give their consent and we will look into that,” said Helene Vrignon, a hospital representative.

Vrignon said the identities of two baby boys on the same ward got mixed up. The family of the boy who was incorrectly circumcised had not yet made a decision about whether to have the procedure done, she added.

I have no idea what my response would be if doctors made that mistake with my child, but it wouldn’t be a delayed decision on whether or not I’d sue. I fully comprehend that this is an unlikely scenario, but it’s certainly possible. Given that approximately 75% of newborn males in Virginia are circumcised upon birth, parents still view circumcision as a decision-less decision. I’d take no chances a doctor might make an “inappropriate” mistake. I’d still have a letter before the birth for every doctor involved indicating that circumcision should not be performed.

But the bigger problem in this scenario should be obvious. The doctors circumcised the infant without consent, as Mr. Tetreault said. He implied the parents’ consent. Presumably, the law in Canada, as in the U.S., focuses on the parents, but that’s the wrong analysis. Is everyone involved so dense that they can’t make one minute shift in thinking to grasp the medically-unnecessary surgery inflicted upon the infant without his consent? Let everyone play musical chairs with their roles in this example and the principle remains. Yet, we ignore that this lack of consent occurs every day in America. Future generations will look back in disbelief at our blatant ethical violation.

One thought on “As long as it’s for the children”

  1. The only way I can imagine that this happened is if the infant had been taken to the nursery. In most cases, the infant can remain in the room with the parents until they leave the hospital. There’s no need for the baby to be out of the parents’ sight unless they authorize the nursing staff to take the baby to the nursery.
    And, if people are outraged by this story, they should be. Maybe then they can imagine the outrage a person might feel when he finds out his foreskin was removed without his consent. Consent from the parents just isn’t enough.

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