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Circumcision Is Unethical and Unlawful

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2021

Abstract

The foreskin is a complex structure that protects and moisturizes the head of the penis, and, being the most densely innervated and sensitive portion of the penis, is essential to providing the complete sexual response. Circumcision—the removal of this structure—is non-therapeutic, painful, irreversible surgery that also risks serious physical injury, psychological sequelae, and death. Men rarely volunteer for it, and increasingly circumcised men are expressing their resentment about it.

Circumcision is usually performed for religious, cultural and personal reasons. Early claims about its medical benefits have been proven false. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have made many scientifically untenable claims promoting circumcision that run counter to the consensus of Western medical organizations.

Circumcision violates the cardinal principles of medical ethics, to respect autonomy (self-determination), to do good, to do no harm, and to be just. Without a clear medical indication, circumcision must be deferred until the child can provide his own fully informed consent.

In 2012, a German court held that circumcision constitutes criminal assault. Under existing United States law and international human rights declarations as well, circumcision already violates boys› absolute rights to equal protection, bodily integrity, autonomy, and freedom to choose their own religion. A physician has a legal duty to protect children from unnecessary interventions. Physicians who obtain parental permission through spurious claims or omissions, or rely on the American Academy of Pediatrics' position, also risk liability for misleading parents about circumcision.

Type
Symposium Articles
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2016

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