In answering a reader’s letter asking how to persuade a friend not to circumcise her soon-to-be-born son, an obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr Sharmaine Mitchell, responds with a well-reasoned explanation of why the procedure is not necessary. Refute the potential benefits with the obvious argument that there are less invasive responses to medical problems, with an additional nod to individual responsibility. I can’t complain, except for this crushing statement backing every circumcision supporter’s favorite crutch:
The procedure is not vital to the child’s immediate well-being at birth and ultimately parents should decide what they think is in the best interest of the child.
Why is medical science so afraid? Whether it’s fear of all the harm than can occur from infection or disease, fear that no longer circumcising would amount to admitting past mistakes, or a more nefarious fear that parents will suddenly reject the all-powerful doctor for their own critical thinking, the answer is absurd. We don’t allow any other surgery just because the parents want it, unless it involves infant male genitalia. I can’t fathom a way in which so many people can come to the collective conclusion that the two parts of the doctor’s statement are anything other than incompatible. I simply can’t.
If that reader’s friend reads Dr. Mitchell’s response, everything will be ignored except the second half of that sentence. That is why I try to understand such willful ignorance. Perhaps one day I’ll learn how to effectively refute it.