How many more stories like this must we read? I’m certainly frustrated seeing them because they wouldn’t occur in a sane world. This time, from the U.K.:
Detectives are investigating the death of a seven-day-old baby after he was circumcised.
Stunned relatives at the Jewish ceremony saw the toddler experience breathing difficulties.
He was taken to hospital but died eight days later. A post mortem found the infant died from cardiac arrest and oxygen starvation.
Forget the religious aspect of this particular story; it has no bearing. The risk is the same, regardless of the reason the surgery is performed, so the implication is broad enough to cover every male infant circumcision.
Is there some threshold for the number of baby boys who must die before we become outraged at this unnecessary procedure? We’re not there yet?
In explaining the background of circumcision for this story, The Mirror provides a precise example of the kind of “balanced” coverage too many take with circumcision. No one wants to offend because male circumcision is seen as normal. Parents who do it are somehow justified in putting their child through the risks of surgery for non-medical reasons. I reject that, as everyone should.
In a connection clearly missed by the The Mirror in its effort to be unbiased, it presented this:
Circumcision of boys is an operation in which the foreskin is removed from the penis. With small babies, local anaesthetic is often sufficient and avoids the risks of a general anaesthetic.
Local anesthetic is “often” sufficient, except it’s not. It takes no leap to realize that cardiac arrest and oxygen starvation might result from surgery on an inadequately anesthetized patient. This would be offensive in nearly every circumstance, but is particularly so when the surgery is unnecessary.
Contrary to a common misconception, babies feel pain. Lest anyone doubt this, listen to the end of this podcast. In the segment titled The Horror of Circumcision, you’ll hear nothing but the baby’s screams as his foreskin is removed¹. If you doubt what I say about circumcision, listen. You won’t come away disagreeing with me.
Also in the article:
Some people believe the skin is redundant and gets in the way of hygiene.
Those people are ignorant.
This back-and-forth nonsense of presenting all sides is maddening. All sides do not warrant equal presentation. Circumcision is wrong. Parents do not have the right to impose such a decision on a child for any reason other than immediate medical need. If newspapers can’t admit this, they should stay quiet and let the facts speak rather than furthering illegitimate excuses.
Update (02/25/07): Based on comments to this entry, I’ve altered this post to better reflect what I meant. I’ve replaced “those people are stupid” with “those people are ignorant“. I know that word can also be seen as a pejorative, but I intend for the word to be taken in the specific context of its definition, “lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified”. In the future I will aim to be more precise.
¹ The use of effective anesthetic should be mandatory as long as we’re going to perpetuate the mistaken view that infant circumcision is acceptable. That is an argument for minimum decency. The use of effective anesthetic does not miraculously erase the basic, serious unacceptability of routine infant circumcision.