Kudos for Responsible Journalism

This article from the New York Times offers two key points that recent reports on circumcision and STD infection failed to provide. First, the article mentions that the recent study out of New Zealand relied on self-reporting. Mentioning this is commendable.

More important is this quote, which is unfortunately the last paragraph of the story. I fear people will ignore it because the so-called truth is in the beginning. Instead, it should be plastered over every article.

David M. Fergusson, the lead author of the study and a professor of medical psychology at Christchurch School of Medicine, warned that the results were not conclusive. “We are cautious about the findings,” he said. “They depend on self-reports, and not all studies agree with ours. But our results definitely suggest that circumcision may reduce rates of S.T.D.’s. We think we’re correct, but it’s best not to be dogmatic about it.”

Dr. Fergusson declined to offer advice to parents. “Decisions to circumcise children should not be made on the basis of one study,” he said. “They should be based on all the evidence. There is certainly evidence of benefit, but the complicated decision parents face is weighing the benefits against the risks of a surgical procedure. Even if we assumed all the evidence favored circumcision, most children wouldn’t benefit from it. We estimate that you would have to circumcise 20 boys to prevent one case of sexually transmitted disease.

Safe-sex education and condoms would be wiser actions than cutting off healthy portions of a male child’s genitalia.

2 thoughts on “Kudos for Responsible Journalism”

  1. I love the way the word “benefit” keeps popping up in all these discussions about circumcision.
    Usually, when one speaks of a “benefit” to be gained from a surgical procedure, it’s in the context of what’s known as a “risk/benefit analysis”. All doctors use risk/benefit analyses when deciding whether to proceed with a given course of action, especially when surgery is involved.
    Before a doctor uses a risk/benefit analysis, however, there needs to be some sort of condition (a disease, injury or abnormality) that warrants such an analysis. In the case of infant circumcision, there is no condition warranting such an analysis.
    That’s what’s so nutty about this whole circumcision “benefit” nonsense. Obviously, if a child’s foreskin is perfectly normal and healthy, there’s no reason to do a risk/benefit analysis or any other kind of analysis.
    The word “benefit”, as it relates to a medical risk/benefit analysis, is entirely inappropriate here, yet you have supposedly intelligent people using it as if it were!

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