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Circumcision: Good or Bad Debate

  • Date: 2015/08/12 (Rev. 2018/02/09)
  • Thomas C. Weiss - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : Information regarding circumcision, a practice commonly performed on the first or second day after a male child is born.

Main Document

Circumcision involves the surgical removal of a male's foreskin, which is the tissue covering the head of the penis. The practice is an ancient one that has its origin in religious rites. In modern times, many parents have their sons circumcised for religious or other reasons.

Male circumcision is defined as the surgical removal of the foreskin (prepuce) from the human penis. In a typical procedure, the foreskin is opened and then separated from the glans after inspection. The circumcision device (if used) is placed, and then the foreskin is removed.

Circumcision is commonly performed on the first or second day after a male child is born. In the Jewish population, it is performed on the eight day. The procedure becomes riskier and more complicated in babies who are older, children, as well as men.

During circumcision, the foreskin is cut from the head of the penis. The excess foreskin is clipped off. If the procedure is performed during the newborn period, it takes between five and ten minutes. Adult circumcision takes approximately one hour. The procedure usually heals in five to ten days.

Debating Necessity of Circumcision

The use of circumcision for health or medical reasons is an issue that continues to be debated today. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discovered that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks associated with it, yet the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The procedure might be recommend for boys who are older or men in order to treat, 'phimosis,' or the inability to retract the foreskin, or to treat an infection of the person's penis.

Parents of male children should discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of circumcision prior to making a decision in regards to performing the procedure on their child. Additional factors such as a person's religion, culture, or personal preference also need to be involved in the discussion. There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits such as:

  • Protection against penile cancer
  • Prevention of paraphimosis and phimosis
  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • Prevention of balanitis and balanoposthitis
  • Reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sexual partners
  • Reduced risk of some forms of sexually transmitted diseases

Circumcision also makes it easier for a person to keep the end of their penis clean. Some studies show that good hygiene may help to prevent certain issues with the penis, to include swelling and infections, even if the person's penis is not circumcised. The debate continues.

Risks of Circumcision

Circumcision, as with any surgical procedure, presents certain risks. The risks; however, are low. Issues associated with circumcision include the following:

  • Pain
  • Irritation of the glans
  • Risk of injury to the penis
  • Risk of infection and bleeding
  • Increased risk of inflammation of the opening of the penis

Circumcision Facts

More than 80% of the men in the world today are, 'intact.' The majority of circumcised males are Muslims. There are no national medical organizations in the world that recommend routine circumcision of male infants. What follows is more information regarding the practice of circumcision.

Circumcision is the world's oldest planned surgical procedure, suggested by anatomist and hyperdiffusionist historian Grafton Elliot Smith to be over 15,000 years old, pre-dating recorded history. There is no firm consensus as to how it came to be practiced worldwide.

Evidence suggests that circumcision was practiced in the Arabian Peninsula by the 4th millennium BCE, when the Sumerians and the Semites moved into the area that is modern-day Iraq.

Circumcision is practiced by some groups amongst Australian Aboriginal peoples, Polynesians, and Native Americans. Little information is available about the origins and history of circumcision among these peoples, compared to circumcision in the Middle East.

  • Adult Circumcision: The medical need for the procedure in adults is as low as 6 in 100,000. Adults, unlike infants, receive anesthetics.
  • American Origin: Routine infant circumcision began in America in the 1870's when it was promoted as a preventative cure for masturbation.
  • Professional Protest: Some aware nurses and doctors refuse to perform or assist with circumcisions because of ethical considerations.
  • Jewish Circumcision: An increasing number of Jewish people in America are not circumcising their sons. Circumcision among the Jewish populations in South America, Europe and Israel is not universal.
  • Male Attitude: Male satisfaction with circumcision depends on lack of knowledge concerning circumcision. The more men know, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied. The men wish they had a choice.
  • Circumcision Risks: The rate of complications happening in the hospital and during the child's first year has been documented to be as high as 38% and include infection, hemorrhage, surgical injury and rarely, death.
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases: According to the AAP in 1999, evidence in regards to the relationship of circumcision to sexually transmitted diseases in general is both complex and conflicting. Behavioral factors seem to be far more important risk factors.
  • Cleanliness: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in 1999 that, 'there is little evidence to affirm the association between circumcision status and optimal penile hygiene. The uncircumcised penis is easy to keep clean. Caring for your son's uncircumcised penis requires no special action. Foreskin retraction should never be forced.'
  • Matching Friends: The 2009 national circumcision rate is reported to be 32.5%, less than 25% in some states. While past circumcision rates were higher, there is no documented emotional harm to boys who are intact. In fact, there are growing reports from men who have disliked being circumcised since they were boys, even though they were in the majority.
  • Behavioral Response: Different studies have discovered that short-term effects of circumcision include changed activity level, sleep patterns and mother-infant interaction, as well as increased irritability and disruptions in bonding and feeding. Long-term effects have yet to be studied. Changes in pain response have been demonstrated at six months of age.
  • Foreskin Function and Size: The foreskin protects the head of the penis. It enhances sexual pleasure and facilitates intercourse. Men who were circumcised as adults report a significant loss of sensitivity. Men who have restored their foreskin report greatly increased sexual pleasure and sensitivity. The foreskin on the average male adult is approximately 12 sq. in. of highly erogenous tissue.
  • Pain: According to a comprehensive study, newborn responses to pain are similar to, yet greater than, those observed in adults. Circumcision is highly painful as well as traumatic. Some infants do not cry because they go into traumatic shock from the incredible pain related to the procedure. No experimental anesthetic has been discovered to be effective and safe in the prevention of circumcision pain in infants.

Statistics

  • An estimated one-third of males worldwide are circumcised.
  • The procedure is most prevalent in the Muslim world and Israel, where it is near-universal.
  • The WHO estimated in 2007 that 664,500,000 males aged 15 and over were circumcised (30-33% global prevalence), almost 70% of whom were Muslim.
  • Circumcision is most prevalent in the Muslim world, Israel, South Korea, the United States and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.
  • Circumcision is relatively rare in Europe, Latin America, parts of Southern Africa and Oceania and most of Asia.

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