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Northfield Parents Talk: To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise?

The topic, tied to religious beliefs, hygiene issues, health, and even sexual pleasure, is emotionally charged.

This week's topic:

To circumcise or not to circumcise?

New York Magazine posted a series of articles exploring the pros and cons of circumcision. Trends in recent years have caused parents to reconsider circumcision for their sons. The topic, tied to religious beliefs, hygiene issues, health, and even sexual pleasure, is emotionally charged.  

In "Would You Circumcise This Baby?," author Michael Idov writes, "Circumcision is still, as it has been for decades, one of the most routinely performed surgical procedures in the United States—a million of the operations are performed every year. Yet more Americans are beginning to ask themselves the same question the Moreas did: Why, exactly, are we doing this? Having peaked at a staggering 85 percent in the sixties and seventies, the U.S. newborn-circumcision rate dropped to 65 percent in 1999 and to 56 percent in 2006. Give or take a hiccup here and there, the trend is remarkably clear: Over the past 30 years, the circumcision rate has fallen 30 percent. All evidence suggests that we are nearing the moment (2014?) when the year’s crop of circumcised newborns will be in the minority."


About Parents Talk:

Each week in Parents Talk, our Parents Council—a group of parents who work with us to share what matters to them and in turn to other local parents—will take your questions, offer advice and provide solutions. The parents, who have graciously given their time and thoughts, and who you'll see posting their comments on our Parents Talk discussions, are: , , and .

Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Betsy Gasior October 14, 2011 at 02:13 PM
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0802556 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(02)00304-3/fulltext I picked Brian Morris (who has been a medical researcher for over 40 years, and yes, is not a medical physician, but teaches them) because he's much more easily read than medical journals. However, I consider the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet pretty reliable sources. I guess my education as a nurse makes me unqualified as well to make this decision for my own children...I'm not making the decision for yours. I stand by my earlier point that parents have the right to make decisions for their children, but need to be informed on both sides of the issue (any) before they make their decision. Lambasting other parents for their choice is not what we all as parents need. It's bad enough that women get a bad rap if they breastfeed or not, work or not. Why add another log to the "I'm better than you because I..." fire? Why not present your arguments as factual rather than casting judgement between your facts?
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 02:19 PM
thanks, Brian. With the propaganda machines of the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, the CDC, WHO, and others working overtime, it is almost impossible to not be mislead. What woke me up, other than seeing in the Oster study in Denmark that it was normal for little boys to not be able to retract, was logic. America has been the biggest field test for circumcision, ever. Almost 90% of the men were circumcised. Did the disease rates budge? No. What do we have to show for it? The world's largest consumption of viagra. Men who get less sensitive because of callousing, from rubbing against their underwear all day, until in their later years, they feel almost nothing. Lots of cases of meatal stenosis (narrowing of the pee hole), hidden penis, skin bridges, painful erections, and other untold damage. Anybody can make statistics lie, and they do. For instance, the CDC doesn't even keep track of circumcision deaths. It is always chalked up to something else. They don't want to know how people are suffering from a partial amputation of the head, from the various clamps. If it wasn't for being able to do a web search for "circumcision+wrongful death", or "Injuries linked to circumcision clamp", we would never know, because these organizations have a vested interest in NOT letting us know. It is as if their motto is "First, injure the child". A male benefits from having half his genital skin removed, as much as a female. Why is one a felony, and the other common practice?
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 02:21 PM
The reason I cite WHO, is because Dr. David Tomlinson, who teaches family medicine at Brown University in Providence, R.I., and serves as the World Health Organization's chief expert on circumcision. He also invented the "improved" Gomco, the "improved" Plastibell and the "improved" Accu-circ. He very likely gets a cut of the profits, every time one of these devices is sold. That would make Africa and the US gold mines.
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 02:32 PM
OK, Betsy. The gloves are off. How do the rates of infection of, say, uncircumcised Denmark, compare to the rates of infection of the US? They get less HIV, HPV, penile cancer, cervical cancer, and STDs, than Americans. How does that fit into your world view of circumcision. Please, feel free to make it make sense to me. Brian Morris is a member of multiple societies of men who get sexual pleasure from circumcision. So, this makes him medically qualified, so much so that you base surgery on your kids, and others, on his words, which are widely seen as false by medical societies all over the world? Just how reasonable do you think this is? Did you look at any of the medical sources I cited? Just where did the NIH, University of Washington, or JAMA go wrong? Just how does what the NEJM or Lancet publish, justify removing a significant percentage of your childrens' genitalia, in a painful operation they don't need? If you were healthy, and I strapped you down and removed half of the skin of your genitals, should I be praised? What part of unnecessary surgery is that hard to understand? Why is it that the medical societies of no country on Earth state that circumcision is medically necessary, or desirable? Did you think that you were following medical recommendations? What part of "healing arts professional" covers cutting healthy parts off of a non-consenting person?
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 03:01 PM
I posted scores of factual sites, ranging from the Dutch Royal Medical Society, to the National Institutes of Health, to JAMA, University of Washington, to the LA Times exposing clamp injuries. You post Brian Morris' circumcision cheerleading site, with a bunch of pumped up figures, and nothing to back them up. Then, later, a JAMA and a Lancet. What would you have me do? How can I make the facts more factual, so that someone like yourself would see them as factual?
Megan Basinger October 14, 2011 at 06:24 PM
I must say that none of this makes me regret my husband's and my decision to have our two sons circumsized. And as for the trauma...they both slept through the procedure.
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 06:40 PM
If you really believe that someone sleeps through their circumcision, you can try this simple experiment to prove or disprove it, at home. Put an object between your fingernail and the fingernail bed. Shove it in, and push it around, until the connection is broken, and the fingernail comes free. Why? At birth, the head and foreskin are one part. Fused. Connected by synchea. Doctors insert a blunt probe, and push it around until the two separate. This is exactly like removing the nail, except that it is more painful. "In one study, researchers concluded that the pain was severe and persistent. Increases in heart rate of 55 beats per minute have been recorded, about a 50 percent increase over the baseline. After circumcision, the level of blood cortisol increased by a factor of three to four times the level prior to circumcision. " http://www.circumcision.org/response.htm What you mistook for sleeping, was going into deep shock. Talbert LM, Kraybill EN, Potter HD Adrenal cortical response to circumcision in the neonate. Obstet Gynecol. 1976; 48:208-210 [Medline] Gunnar MR, Fischer RO, Korsvik S, The effects of circumcision on serum cortisol and behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1981; 6:269-275 [CrossRef][Medline] Rawlings DJ, Miller PA, Engel RR The effect of circumcision on transcutaneous PO2 in term infants. Am J Dis Child. 1980; 134:676-678
Jack Perry October 14, 2011 at 07:33 PM
US studies on HPV show that in the UNITED STATES cut or natural have the same amount of HPV. A partner of a natural man does not get cervical cancer at any different rate than from a cut men. ONLY the number of sexual partners and not circumcision status is linked to HPV risk. This cutting off of erogenous tissue is a very creepy thing to do to a baby. The long term harm is huge with nerve damage and harm to the sensory system. A whole range of sensation and sexual and protective function are lost. The lips and fingertips have similar touch sense. BTW, the rates of baby boy penis parts removal are plummeting in the US. So the boys that have the unnatural partial penis may be in for the teasing. However, in normal places, there is no teasing as those that look and comment are the one's teased. There is no doubt that the inner foreskin, ridged band and the frenulum have tons of nerve endings and provide PLEASURE. You lose those parts, you have less sensation, like if you lost your lips or fingertips. When such an obvious point is brushed off, one can see that there is some bogus motivation. The motivation is a desperate attempt to keep this practice going. The issue is very clear. The parts cut off have stretch and touch sensors. One touches or is touched at these parts, one stretches or one is stretched at these parts and the result is pleasure. Remove the parts, the result is removal of pleasure from ones life for good.
Jack Perry October 14, 2011 at 07:43 PM
I think your education as a nurse may make you unqualified. American medical professionals (particularly nurses) have been advising parents of natural penis boys, and have been forcing natural penis boys, to pull back their foreskin and clean (including scrub with soap). It is now known that this has been the cause of infections. The US medical community has actually been causing this problem for boys with a natural penis and then has recommended removal of parts of the penis after the problem occurs.. This is so outrageous and is hardly discussed. Particularly for a baby, a natural penis is so much cleaner and healthier. It is a sterile package. A cut baby has parts exposed to feces and urine. For natural, just clean the outside -- No internal cleaning is needed until the male reaches puberty and then just rinse. But it is now known that the infection thing is bad medical advice. Boys that are natural should not have their foreskin touched by others. Natural boys really have no problems if you don't retract THEIR foreskin. Problems are much less than the complications of the cut. One cut complication is DEATH It is also alarming that you do not know (and refuse to consider) the innervation of the penis parts cut off. There are thousands of nerve endings ion these parts. Do you dispute that? Or do you just think the male sensory system should be changes, with sensation and pleasure removed from the lives of men? First do NO HARM!
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Jack, that is one of the finest descriptions I've ever seen. You have put something sublime into words that make sense to someone else, and that's not easy to do. Thank you so much!
Thomas Tobin October 14, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Jack, again, you've hit on a truth. The most common source of problems with an intact penis, is a doctor or nurse forcing the foreskin back when it is still attached to the head, and causing a tear. The tear heals to the head, causing an adhesion. When the foreskin remnants of a circumcised boy heal to the head, they call it a skin bridge. If people in the US follow the advice you outline, as they do elsewhere in the world, an intact penis is sensual, hygienic, and a joy to both partners.
Jack Perry October 14, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Thanks Thomas. My sons pediatrician retracted my son of 2 yrs (many years ago) and this really affected me. I am so upset that this ignorance and HARM continue to happen today. It really needs to be stopped. Thank you also for giving people real information and trying to stop the misinformation.
Nate Basinger October 14, 2011 at 09:58 PM
The premise of Mr. Tobin's argument is that since it is the baby boy's body, it should be his choice. I am curious as to what his view is on abortion.
Hugh7 October 14, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Prof. Brian Morris of the University of Sydney, is a molecular biologist who never saw a reason for circumcising he didn't like, including "to prevent bathroom splatter" and "to prevent zipper injury".He spins the statisitics faster than a dentist's drill. He turned FIVE intact boys with recurrent UTIS out of 75,000 children into "19% percent of boys" (the 5 were in a sub-sub-sample of 26 boys). He has just co-authored a paper with the editor of a circumcision-fetish website. Prof Morris is on record on public television in Australia as thinking neonatal circumcision should be MANDATORY. So much for parental choice! Your second link is just to an editorial citing the first one. Sadly, when it comes to circumcision, even the NEJM and the Lancet are as susceptible to the bias of their researchers as more earthly publications, and bald studies of a slight reduction in a common virus among paid volunteers for circumcision in African countries do not of themselves make a case for cutting a normal, functional, non-renewable part off the genitals of any healthy baby in the developed world. If ease of reading is what you want, visit the Intactivism Pages, http://www.circumstitions.com
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 12:24 AM
I think abortion is the most tired cliche that is trotted out for every circumcision discussion, next to the picture of the banana with the end of the peel cut off. Truly a red herring. I think you have no more business asking my view on abortion, than I have asking you your religion. That being said, I will say this. In my experience, I have never heard an aborted fetus scream. When my son was born, I was in the hospital scrubbing up, so I could hold him. I had the gown and slippers on, and was disinfecting my hands. I heard a sound. I can't begin to describe it. I wasn't sure it was a human body making it, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I ran into the next room, thinking someone was murdering a baby. I walked in on a circumcision. That boy made sounds I didn't know were possible, but it was agony, and it was torture. What I didn't know, was that my wife was in the room on the other side, and heard everything as well. We were both so jarred, we never spoke of it, for 37 years. It was only a month or two ago that I found out she had heard it, too. So, Mr, Basinger, what is your religion? What are your politics? How much money do you make in a year? And what does your question have to do with removing half the skin of the genitalia of those who make it through the birth canal alive?
Nate Basinger October 15, 2011 at 02:45 AM
The reason behind the question was simply to point out that to be truly consistent in the reasoning of his body/his choice, it needs to carry through to conception, when his body begins. To abort the baby would be to make a "medical" decision regarding the boy's body without his consent. As parents, we understand that our role is to make decisions for our children when they are unable to make them for themselves. Circumcision as an infant is regarded to be much safer and easier than when they are older. It is also considered more humane in that, while painful at the time, there is no lasting memory of the event. I do not know of a single adult male who was circumcised as an infant and now carries around emotional scarring from that event. Some parents choose to have it done for medicinal purposes, some for religious. Others abstain for the same reasons. I was simply trying to understand why you were so strongly opposed to it. It sounds like you had a terrifying experience; the sound of a child in agony is certainly one of the most heart-wrenching emotions we can experience. However, just because some of the procedures have been improperly performed, or it was a terrifying experience for someone, does not mean that the procedure itself is inherently wrong or evil.
Hugh7 October 15, 2011 at 05:38 AM
Abortion is a different issue. Nobody is FOR abortion, we just disagree about when, in the course of the extraoridinary journey that is a pregnancy, it should no longer be permissible. But whenever they may begin, human rights do not END at birth. And nobody is suggesting it should be the choice of a baby boy, but of the man he is to become. In the case of abortion, by defintion, there is no such person. How come so many of the very same people who think abortion is an exactly analogous issue to circumcision will go into a frothing rage when anyone dares to compare male genital cutting with female genital cutting, no matter how minimal, surgical and pain-free (as it is in Malaysia and Indonesia, and used to be in the USA)?
Hugh7 October 15, 2011 at 05:41 AM
The question is not whether you regret it, but whether either of your sons will, as men,
Hugh7 October 15, 2011 at 05:52 AM
"I do not know of a single adult male who was circumcised as an infant and now carries around emotional scarring from that event. " - and has told you so. Here are plenty: http://www.circumstitions.com/Resent.html (And they are only the, um, tip of the iceberg.) The claim that early circumcision is safer than later has no scientific backing. It is just a variant on "Buy now, this offer won't last!" The vast majority of men never want or need to be circumcised at all. There is no need to have any reason not to cut part of a baby's genitals off, but his (or her) human right to decide about how much of his (or her) own genitals to keep trumps any supposed "right" of parents to make that decision for him (or her). Regardless of severity, we take that right for granted when the child is a girl; why not a boy?
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Mr. Basinjger, you are looking for someone to call a hypocrite. Someone to crucify, Somone to make you feel superior. I am not going to hand you the hammer and nails. You say, "we understand that our role is to make decisions for our children when they are unable to make them for themselves." . I say, "Bull". How is it life threatening to leave him with the set of genitals nature and/or God designed for him, over 120 million years of mammal evolution? How is circumcision an improvement over the natural blueprint. If you still have to wear a condom to prevent infection, and there is no one arguing you don't, then why subject them to an amputation, for the privilege? You make the mistake of "surgery now, to avoid surgery later". In a normal country, such as Finland, 710 people required a circumcision out of a population of 5 million, in 2002. Source: Wikipedia, prevalence of circumcision, Finnish Health Ministry. Are you really saying we should circumcise everybody, to prevent a miniscule fraction that may need it? Safer? Tell it to the people who had their heads guillotined off. http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/atlanta-lawyer-wins-11-573890.html http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/26/health/la-he-circumcision-20110926 or the wrongful death lawsuits http://indiancountrynews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7526&Itemid=131 http://www.nbrlawfirm.com/Medical-Malpractice/Blogs/toddler-dies-after-circumcision-at-manhattan-hospital
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 01:01 PM
Here's a hypothetical for you, Mr. Basinger. I am female. I get slipped a rufee in my drink. I am brutally raped. I wake up, and have no memory of it, except pain and bleeding. Is this rape? This is the exact analogue you describe, justifying circumcision He doesn't remember it. Half the skin of his genitalia is still gone. Here is a male who was circumcised as an infant and now carries around emotional scarring from that event. http://intactnews.org/node/134/1318099689/jonathon-conte-motivations-intactivist Here is another: Mike 7:10pm on Thursday, October 13, 2011 I am a circumcised male that deeply resents my circumcision. It has caused me and my wife an untold amount of trouble. Not all circumcisions work out as the parents hope they might. A man that has to live the rest of his life with a botched circumcision, when there was no necessary reason that he needed to be circumcised in the first place, has all the right in the world to feel that his basic human rights were violated. http://northeastcobb.patch.com/articles/should-you-circumcise-your-son? Why do you think there are 12,000 entries for "foreskin restoration" in a Google search?
Nate Basinger October 15, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Mr. Tobin, I am neither looking to call anyone a hypocrite, nor to, as you say, "crucify" anyone. My intention was to merely point to the logical nexus of your argument. You have some very strong views on this topic and are very passionate about it; that is commendable. Though I disagree with your view and do not find your reasoning to be logical, I respect your opinion and your willingness to do what you believe to be in the best interest of your children. The purpose of discussions like this is to allow people with differing points of view to voice their opinions and share the reasoning behind it. Simply attacking everyone else's opinion with bitterness and disdain is not conducive to a civil discussion. Just as you have a strong opinion on this topic and firmly believe you are right, so, too, do many other people with differing views. I enjoy a civil discussion with people of opposing views as it serves to either make my argument stronger, or allows me to see a different perspective. Going after other opinions with a personal vendetta is disrespectful and self-defeating - not allowing others to freely offer their opinions turns a discussion into a monologue. I offer this merely as a suggestion, and look forward to future discussions.
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 09:35 PM
You had no business remarking on abortion. You had no business trying to link me in with abortion either way. That was rude, uncalled for, and off topic. It was not, as you say, " the logical nexus of [my] argument" Then you come back and say, "Simply attacking everyone else's opinion with bitterness and disdain is not conducive to a civil discussion." You have some nerve. I think you've shown what you are made of. I think that you and Megan have shown what kind of respect you have for your kids' bodies as well.
Hugh7 October 15, 2011 at 09:44 PM
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson There is no "decision parents make for their children" quite like circumcision, a decision to cut a normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable body part off him. It is illegal to cut any other such part off him (lacking pressing medical need) and a girl's most nearly corresponding part gets special legal protection. So if you want consistency, make our treatment of the infant foreskin consistent with our treatment of every other such body part.
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Once again, Mr. Basinger, do you really, honestly think that if I came over your house, and left with a large percentage of your genital skin, there would be nothing inherently wrong or evil with the process? Think hard before you answer. Because that is exactly what you requested to happen with your sons. What if, and this is purely hypothetical, they came to you and said, "I wanted that". "You had no right to take it. It belonged to me"? It's always OK, when it is done to someone else. It's a little different, when you have "skin in the game".
Thomas Tobin October 15, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Mr. Basinger, I have some more questions for you. Why is removing the foreskin "medicinal" or "religious" for a boy, and a felony and mutilation for a girl? What part of removing half the genital skin from an unconsenting person is not evil? How many times have you said to yourself, "Gee, I think I would like to have less genitalia"? "Life would be better, I would have less effort needed for hygiene, I would be less prone to disease, and I would be more religious,"
Thomas Tobin October 16, 2011 at 01:10 AM
From the nurse who started another Patch discussion elsewhere: Marilyn Kontrafouris-Eleftheriou RN,MN commented on the article Should You Circumcise Your Son? "Dear Readers, I would like to thank you all for your participation in a very unscientific poll but telling none the less. As a nurse, I have always known that I could learn from my patients no matter how young. I have learned from all of you. I will retract my line from my article that circumcision does not detract from the male sexual experience. I will add that NMC detracts from not only from the male sexual experience but the female experience. After all, it takes 2 to tango. I have received private email regarding the plight of men who have endured a lot from botched NMC (Non-Medical Circumcision). I have always felt that children have little rights in this great nation of ours. I will site examples of little rights such as foster care problems, lack of medical services that are starting to change and now circumcision. This article has generated great discussion and on a national level with comments from all around the US. i am glad I was a part of this. thank You." My point being, you know many people who have been damaged by circumcision. You simply don't know it, because men don't openly speak of such things. Estimates of meatal stenosis (narrowing of the pee hole from scarring from uric acid) run up to 11% to 30% of circumcised men. There is no other operation with so many unintended consequences.
Thomas Tobin October 17, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Here's an article, published in the American Association of Pediatrics, stating that increasingly, a second circumcision is being performed on a previously circumcised boy, to fix the first circumcision. http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AAP/29075#rate This, and the surgery for penile adhesions (where the remnant of the foreskin heals to the wound on the head), could all be avoided, by not circumcising in the first place, with no ill effects...which is just what is done in almost every other country.
Thomas Tobin October 17, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Another study, this time from Canada's Journal of Men's Health If the doctor is circumcised, he tends to advise parents that the child should be circumcised, even if there is no medical basis for doing so. http://www.jmhjournal.org/article/S1875-6867(10)00050-3/abstract
Bill J August 16, 2012 at 09:36 AM
I am curious about how a boy could sleep through such a thing. When my daughter was an infant she would scream with a nappy change. There are cases of nurses (in the US) stating they were told to tell parents that the boy slept through it when in actuality they screamed their heads off. Were you present at the surgery?

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