I’ve written two posts responding to a series of statements and entries a blogger posted on infant circumcision. They’re extensive, so I expect only the truly interested will read them. However, I’d like to point out an interesting and useful section from each. From the first entry, in response to a claim by Professor Brian Morris on the cost of circumcision for infants and adults:
Speaking strictly from a finance perspective, advocating for infant circumcision is the more expensive approach. His analysis is that the cost is 10 times 0.1 for his preference and 0.1 times 10 for his worst case. The present value of $1 spent over many years in the future is less than the $1 spent today. Professor Morris prefers the more expensive option.
Infant circumcision is a surgical procedure performed without medical need because it offers potential health benefits. The latter defense is what proponents obsess on, as the author does here. But just to prove that the author’s last claim is ad hominem deployed to prop up her indefensible case, there are potential advantages to being circumcised as an infant. The reduction in UTI risk is likely real. The reduction in HIV-infection risk is likely real, at least in the short-term. And so on. I accept this.
But so what? That gives no validity to prophylactic infant male circumcision. There are better, more effective, less invasive ways to achieve every single benefit or to treat the maladies in the unlikely instances where they occur. The objective health is what matters for proxy consent for a child. Is the intervention indicated and necessary? Infant circumcision fails this core test. Moving forward is unethical because objective reality trumps the subjective chase for justifications.
As I responded to that tweet, I don’t refute the scientific research. I reject the flawed (i.e. unethical) application of that research. There is a difference.
It’s worth noting, too, that I can accept the scientific research because my position remains strong regardless. The position that relies on the scientific research without ethics or core facts pertinent to each individual case falls apart if it acknowledges anything beyond its talking points.
This does not mean that I think the studies looking for potential benefits are sound and will withstand the scrutiny of time and further research. I suspect many of them won’t. The history of infant circumcision and the search for potential benefits demonstrates the belief in stagnant arguments for the procedure to be a silly proposition to defend with any certainty. Still, I can accept the findings as present scientific consensus. But I will continue to probe those potential flaws, as anyone who cares about science and furthering knowledge should. We don’t stop just because we find the answer we want.