Monday, June 11, 2012

TEXAS: UTMB Debates the "Pros, Cons and Contexts of Male Circumcision"

It's been a while since I've been able to sit down and blog. I plan to sit down at some point and tackle some very important subjects. I've been holding off on the Colorado saga because I think it merits time and consideration. But for now, I wanted to comment on a so-called "symposium" that's happening at the Univeristy of Texas.

So according to the Daily News, the University of Texas Medical Branch is hosting a symposium titled "Cutting Edge Debate: Pros, Cons and Contexts of Male Circumcision."

It's always a good thing for conversation regarding circumcision to be happening, as, up until recently, it was a very taboo subject. But I wonder whether this will actually be a worthy symposium, or merely a meditation session for those who chant the "infant circumcision has medical benefits, and therefore a religious freedom and a parental right" mantra.

"Is male circumcision a medical procedure or a ritual? Why is it important religiously and historically? Should it be performed, and if so, how should it be performed?", begins the Daily News article. What about the ethics of performing amputative surgery on the genitals of a healthy, non-consenting child? Will those be addressed?

Given who is on the "panel of experts," I can only hope so. It includes a Jewish mohel "who is also a pediatrician." No direct conflicts of interest there. Then we have "two physicians with differing views on the ethical questions surrounding the performing of routine infant circumcision," one who happens to oversee the UTMB Pediatric Residency Training program in circumcision, the other who has actually stopped performing circumcisions because of the ethical concerns. So, in actuality, we have two physicians who are pro-circumcision (if you include the mohel) against the one with a differing view. I can already guess what the outcome of this "debate" will be.

Or what kind of a debate is it where a bunch of "experts," most of whom share the same beliefs, figuratively look under a rock and say "Hrm... No violation of medical ethics or basic human rights here..."?

The mohel/pediatrician will talk about "the place of circumcision in the Jewish tradition, the unique features of religious circumcision and his many years of experience performing the brit milah ritual with families throughout in the southwest region." And, as if this were of any importance, the Daily News article mentions "...he often is contacted by non-Jewish parents actively seeking out a mohel to perform circumcision on their sons. His discussion will include reasons some of these parents have shared with him for seeking a ritual circumcision instead of a purely clinical one."

Yes, because the context in which adults abuse a child makes all the difference...

Another panelist will talk about "a social and historical framework for thinking about the ritual of circumcision" as well as "larger contexts within which circumcision is performed and debated."

All in all, it sounds like the University of Texas Medical Branch wants to engage in what appears to be an "academic debate" regarding the forced circumcision of male infants.

But would there ever be an "academic debate" on the "Pros, Cons and Contexts of Female Circumcision?" Would Dr. Hatem Elhagaly, who happens to be an advocate for female genital cutting be allowed to be one of the panelists? Would we allow a pediatrician to proudly boast how many sunat procedures he's performed on baby girls? Could we have an "academic debate" and discuss the questions"Is [fe]male circumcision a medical procedure or a ritual? Why is it important religiously and historically? Should it be performed, and if so, how should it be performed?" Could we discuss "a social and historical framework for thinking about the ritual of circumcision" as well as "larger contexts within which circumcision is performed and debated?"

The answer is no, we would not.

The answer is, the forced genital cutting of female minors is seen as a violation of basic human rights, and we do not beat around the bush with "academic debate" and the "pros and cons" of female circumcision.

There would never be enough "research" or enough "medical benefits" to justify forced genital cutting in female minors, in any context, "medical" or "religious."

Bottom Line
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails.

The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue, with which all boys are born; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.

Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting individual is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.

Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individual, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents.

Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.

It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.

When male infant genital mutilation is seen for the gross human rights violation that it is, the University of Texas will be among the guilty for perpetuating it in this country.


  1. Excellent points Joseph. One wonders how much longer the deception can continue.

  2. Reading the item I had the same concerns. The only person who looks at all like an Intactivist is "Dr. Juliet McKee ... a UTMB assistant professor in Family Medicine with specific interests in complementary and integrative medicine(1), women’s and children’s health and maternity care. While she continues to provide circumcision counseling (2), she no longer performs circumcisions. Her talk will address how she came to this decision, her concern for the vulnerability of infant patients and her desire to induct newborns into the world in ways that are intentional and respectful.(3)"

    1. Sounds like she's full of New Age woo-woo.
    2. So how does she "counsel" an Adamant Father?
    3. The circumcisers will argue that they cut babies intentionally and respectfully.

    Nobody there who looks likely to argue that cutting parts off babies of any sex (lacking pressing medical need) is a breach of their human rights.

  3. Cutting Edge Debate

    Sigh... Let me guess: Their official graphic artwork also involves a banana...

  4. They should also have a man on the panel who's unhappy he was circumcised as a baby, and an empty chair for all the boys who were killed as a result of circumcision.

  5. Many non-Jews still continue to seek out people to have their boys circumcised, including mohels. Circumcision is obviously not medically necessary since the rest of the Western world doesn't practice it, but if American parents are going to insist on having their boys circumcised anyway, it's probably best to have it done by a mohel who has done it thousands of times and is less likely to make mistakes.

    1. You're either ignorant to reality, or you think my readers must be stupid and gullible.

      Yes, if American parents are going to insist on having boys circumcised anyway, they might as well take them to a mohel and increase their chances of getting herpes, as if causing an intentional wound in a healthy child, that will fester along with urine and feces, isn't already risky enough.

      Not to mention the latest million dollar law-suits involving mohels severing more than just the foreskin in Israel, the UK, the US etc... Not to mention reports of circumcision botches from both Israel and the US...

      The risks attending circumcision include infection, hemorrhage, partial or full ablation of the penis or even death, whether it be performed by a trained professional, or a mohel "who does this for a living."

      Seriously, what planet are you from?

  6. It reeks of a deliberately uneven playing field:

    2 against less than < 1 (from her description, it sounds like she is not all there).

    ¡The circumfetishists all but fixed this so-called debate!

  7. An unbiased debate in a medical school is too much to expect.

    There is an informal brotherhood among physicians (actually, this is true of all groups I can think of) that does not condone criticism that would result in restraint of trade of any other members.

    The intactivist woman participant is betraying the brotherhood of pediatricians, many of whom make money by mutilating baby boys.