Surgery as a Replacement for Parenting

I used to feel some reservation about quoting parents when they’ve said something stupid about circumcision. You’ve probably figured out that I shed that a long time ago. When someone says something stupid to a reporter, I highlight it solely to point out that people are using stupidity to justify imposing permanent, medically unnecessary surgery on their child. (Doctors are complicit in this nonsense, which will also be obvious.) From an article out of St. Louis:

“I tell people there’s not a real medical reason for them to have [ed. note: Have? Force.] a circumcision,” said Dr. Jack Klein, chief of obstetrics at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, where 1,873 of the 2,144 boys born in 2007 were circumcised. “I will tell you the majority reason that people get circumcised is because they want their kid to look like other kids.”

That social conformity is reason enough, say some parents concerned about future locker room comparisons and sexual relationships.

“I really didn’t want to be faced with a teenage boy asking me why I didn’t do this and not have a really good reason for him,” St. Louis resident Amy Zimmerman said of her 2-year-old son John.

Notice who she is concerned about. Her concern was about her own feelings, her own desire to avoid the potential for (allegedly) tough questions from her son. That was enough for her to justify unneeded surgery on her son. She seems to wish to parent her son only in ways that do not exceed her level of comfort with potential issues. If it might be uncomfortable for her, her fear is enough to dismiss the healthy, intact (i.e. normal) individual he was, as well as the preference he may one day hold for having his genitals intact. Ms. Zimmerman fails to understand what it means to “not have a really good reason”.

Not that he would’ve complained if she didn’t have him circumcised. That’s speculation. But even if he would eventually complain, it’s an easy position for parents to say “We didn’t cut your healthy penis because it was healthy.” That’s rather simple. If he’s not placated by that, it would still have been possible for him to choose circumcision. But if she’s faced with a teenage boy asking why she did this, and he is not happy about it, what then? Oops?

If an individual does not want to parent his or her children, that person should not have children. Cosmetic surgery on healthy children to avoid future questions is a coward’s solution.


Unfortunately, doctors are complicit in this abdication of parenting. Dr. Klein’s statement above makes this clear, since the surgery is objectively not indicated. But they cede this point in the name of parenting, a very poor conception of that responsibility.

Ultimately, it’s a personal decision, said Dr. Joseph Kahn, chief of pediatrics at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center.

“Like every decision for every surgery on every child,” he said, “it really needs to be something that’s discussed with the parents.”

Ultimately, we don’t treat it as a personal decision. The male choosing or rejecting circumcision for himself would be a personal decision. And like every other decision for every other surgery on every female and male child, it really needs to be something that’s medically necessary. That’s the first principle that’s ignored. Or can parents just order any cosmetic surgery for their child son(s)?

Female genital cutting is prohibited, of course, regardless of the “personal decision” parents might wish to make. We don’t listen to nonsense about parents deciding what’s best for their family, the newest mantra I see developing around male genital cutting. What’s best for your family, when you decide to have a family, is that each person’s bodily integrity is respected. You decide to have children. When they arrive healthy, you do not then have a special veto power over the form of that child’s body just because he is a he and not a she.

Where medical need is absent, intervention is illegitimate.

One thought on “Surgery as a Replacement for Parenting”

  1. I really didn’t want to be faced with a teenage boy asking me why I didn’t do this and not have a really good reason for him,” St. Louis resident Amy Zimmerman said of her 2-year-old son John.
    Once again, the mother makes the decision with the father playing little or no role in the matter.
    And once again, I’m left wondering about the existence of ulterior, possibly subconscious, motives after being dumbstruck by the utter absurdity of the mother’s stated reason for her decision.

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