It’s been too many days. Blah, work, blah. More on this sometime this weekend. Moving on.
Many, many circumcision stories have popped through lately. I’m aiming for a quick hit to clear them out. First up:
“In our study we found gay men who were circumcised at infancy didn’t report having some kind of negative or positive impact on sexual dysfunction.
“However, nearly all men who were circumcised after infancy reported some sexual dysfunction, erectile problems or premature ejaculation, and one in five reported some complication as a result of the circumcision. …”
We all see the obvious flaw, I think. Didn’t report. Is it too difficult to extrapolate that self-reporting is subjective, and therefore inferior, to objective considerations. How about I theorize that all circumcision results in some form and degree of sexual dysfunction. Those circumcised at infancy just don’t realize it. I can’t (and won’t) say that’s true, but it’s no worse than the above.
Next, there was an international conference on HIV/AIDS in Mexico City recently. Of course all discussion of circumcision seemed to focus entirely on the allegedly miraculous power of circumcision. I encountered very little consideration of ethics. I found an example of this indifference in the New York Times, which is almost always reliably bad in this respect.
There was no question about the ethical need for an early stop of the trials. …
But there was a question about the ethical need to constrain the implementation of voluntary, adult circumcision to adults volunteering to undergo circumcision. Public health officials ignored that ethical need within six days. They’ve continued to ignore it since.
For example, in an article titled “Not such an unkind cut, after all”:
Modern techniques make the risks associated with circumcisions insignificant.
Insignificant according to whom? Not necessarily the person facing those risks, yet that gets ignored in favor of propaganda.
Brisbane doctor Terry Russell, who has performed about 19,000 circumcisions, says he has never had a case in which a blood transfusion was required, or a systemic infection ensued. “We see minor local infection in about 2 per cent of the boys that we do, but most are treated without putting them on antibiotics.”
Russell uses the PlastiBell for his procedures, which is a small ring that fits inside the foreskin, over the head of the penis. The foreskin is compressed between the ring on the inside, and a string which is tied to the outside of the foreskin. The clamping cuts off circulation in the area, reducing the risk of bleeding and infection. The PlastiBell accurately defines how much foreskin should be removed, “so you can’t take off too much or too little”, says Russell.
Too much or too little according to whom? Not necessarily the person losing the (functioning, healthy) foreskin, yet that gets ignored in favor of propaganda. And where there’s propaganda, we can almost always find one of our cadre of propagandists. This time, it’s Brian Morris:
An unequivocal advocate of circumcision, Morris notes that men who have the procedure enjoy better hygiene.”Just general, day-to-day, run-of-the-mill hygiene is so much better in circumcised males. This is something that washing with soap just can’t fix, because the bacteria return quite quickly in uncircumcised males,” he says.
And female genitals? Other parts?
… Morris claims that the medical benefits of circumcisions are such that the procedure should always be considered a direct medical need.
Morris needs a dictionary that will properly define need, preferably in a medical context.
Morris says one in three uncircumcised males will suffer an illness that will require medical assistance for a disease directly related to not getting circumcised. From this perspective, Morris argues, it is unethical not to routinely circumcise given the relatively simple and painless nature of the process and the harm that can be avoided.
Do women who get breast cancer suffer a disease directly related to not getting a mastectomy before cancer strikes? Morris is playing very loose with logic, yet he gets featured as if he’s the reasonable voice. The best¹ the reporter can apparently do to counter Morris is this:
That both pre-pubescent boys and adults can undergo circumcisions might support Mason’s contention that the matter should be left until the child can decide for themselves.
It’s not “now or never” for circumcision and all its allegedly wonderful benefits. That’s a large caveat in favor of considering ethics and human rights, no? And maybe it suggests a more vigorous examination of the bit where Morris equates potential benefits to direct medical need than the reporter attempted?
[Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Joseph] Infranco said, “All parents have the right to raise their children in their religious tradition, which obviously includes participation in the historic rituals associated with that religion.”
We could discuss baptism, and I’d probably agree with this statement. But it’s far too broad. If we can judge psychological harm, then no, I won’t concede the point without a debate. If we can judge physical harm, then I will never concede the point. Historic or not, ritual or not, there is no defense for permitting parents to impose physical harm. Children have individual rights – particularly to their bodily integrity – that can’t be ignored in favor of imagined, non-existent rights to treat individuals as collective property.
I didn’t really stick with the quick hits, did I?
¹ For those who wish to mix issues and push for nationalized healthcare as a strategy to reduce infant circumcision, the reporter dropped this into its own paragraph as a defense for the clear intention of the article. I think America would see this emphasis on long-term costs more than an emphasis on short-term costs. Or rights.
Reducing the burden of diseases later in life would also save money in the already over-stretched health budget.
When the choice is between hubris and rights, central planners will always choose hubris.