Thursday, December 14, 2006

Circumdecision

I've just read this article on the BBC website;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6176209.stm

and it's really got me thinking, because up until about ten minutes ago I was absolutely dead against the idea of circumcision. One of the reasons why I'm very glad Anna was a girl, was that the circumdecision as I call it, never came up.

This is another issue where it's odd living in a culture different to that which you grew up in. As far as I can tell, the only countries which routinely circumcise are the US and Israel. Growing up it wasn't an issue, and I distinctly remember discussions at University about one of the lads who was 'cut' and what did it look like etc. It's less endemic now in the US, and definitely treated like a decision rather than a requirement - unlike in the 70s when a tennis friend of ours managed to duck out of a tour of duty in 'Nam by volunteering to get circ'd - the Army was that keen for all their Johnsons to look the same apparently.

Prior to Anna's birth LK and I discussed what we would do if we had a boy (other than make LK's Dad very very happy), and in the end it was agreed we would leave the decision up to LK, as I deferred to the idea that our boy should look like his father, if that's what Lance decided. He would handle it all though; the idea of inflicting unnecessary pain on a newborn seems barbaric to me. And yes it is unnecessary as even the American Academy of Pediatricians now admits that circumcision is a purely cultural phenomenon without medical benefit. I've always heard pro-circumcision arguments along the lines of 'well young boys never clean them properly, so non-circumcision is more likely to lead to infection etc etc and circumcision is just cleaner' but to my mind, that's like arguing for removing all teeth because young boys never clean those either.

Anyway, that was my perspective, until I read this article which has completely thrown me for a loop. It basically states the rate of HIV infection is more than 50% lower in circumcised males, that the results were so stark that the "US National Institutes of Health decided it would be unethical to continue and stopped the trials early" so that they could encourage the 'control' group of uncircumcised males to get it done.

The reason is not, by the way, that uncircumcised penises are less easy to clean but that the skin protected under the foreskin is more sensitive, more likely to bleed and increase the risk of transmission.

So there you have it, I'm now starting to lean towards the idea of giving male baby K (should it ever happen) the snip - just in case he ever goes to sub-Saharan Africa of course. But now LK is worried that with circumcision we will be desensitizing the pecker of our little pecker and that's a far more unethical decision!

1 comment:

mooks said...

Loved this post, and the article you linked to. But, I must admit parts of the article were hard to take seriously - especially when their expert doctor is called Dr. DeCock!