Here we go again:
Circumcising all baby boys could cut the rate of sexually transmitted diseases by about half, a study suggests today. The study adds to the growing scientific evidence that challenges a policy against routine circumcision by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I forget them all the time, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to remind myself of the assumptions that make this allegedly relevant to ethics of routine infant circumcision, rather than some other policy, say adult elective circumcision:
- Infants are having sex, which will expose them to STDs.
- Condoms are not available for adults.
- Personal responsibility is not a viable safe sex concept.
- Parents are unable to teach their children safe sex.
- Fortunately, parents are all-knowing regarding their
childrensons’ future sexual risk.
There are other, typical claims in the article, including support for cutting children from the usual suspects. What’s interesting is what the article leaves out. And this article. And presumably the majority of the media who rush to point out something “miraculous” before investigating whether the miracle is really there.
Instead, consider the study:
METHODS. Data were gathered as part of the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a 25-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand children. Information was obtained on: (1) the circumcision status of males in the cohort before 15 years old, (2) measures of self-reported sexually transmitted infection from ages 18 to 25 years, and (3) childhood, family, and related covariate factors.
Can you spot the flaw? I don’t claim that self-reported is sufficient to overcome the study’s conclusion, only that it’s a glaring fact that’s being ignored in reports. Just as intact men can become infected, circumcised men can become infected. Personal responsibility matters. Also, if the men involved are competent enough to self-report their STDs, they’re competent enough to practice safe sex. If they do not practice safe sex, the intact males do not have their foreskin to blame.