Genital Mutilation American Style
How a father discovered, too late, that circumcision is not a good thing.
by Rio Cruz
The idea that parents have the right to request amputation of normal, erogenous tissue is central to the debate surrounding this issue and highlights the ethical void enveloping the medical establishment. Leading medical ethicist and professor at the McGill Center of Medicine, Ethics and Law, Dr. Margaret Somerville, has stated publicly that circumcision, as performed in our country, is nothing short of "criminal assault." How could it be otherwise? If parents requested that their newborn have a healthy ear or a pinky finger or the tip of its nose amputated at birth so as to conform to family tradition or to look like Daddy or Mommy or the other kids in the neighborhood, or because it might get some sort of infection later in life, any ethical doctor would refuse to do it. If it was done, both doctor and parent would be hauled off to jail where they belong. Of course! Primum non nocere--First, Do No Harm!--the prime directive of the Hippocratic oath... until it comes to mutilating a boy's genitals. Then all ethical concerns are off.
It was precisely this ethical void that prompted nurse Marilyn Milos to establish the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) in 1986. These centers now have branches in almost every state of the union and throughout the world. "There really was no other choice," she said. "Baby boys were and are being routinely tortured and mutilated all over this country for no medical reason whatsoever. The doctors know this, the attending nurses know this. Yet the inertia of years of social conditioning and medical practice has immunized them against the pain and lifelong trauma they inflict on normal babies. It's the most grievous medical scandal of the century!" She videotaped a circumcision to show parents what the cutting entailed. The hospital authorities promptly censored the video and shortly thereafter she was fired from her job. "I simply wanted parents to know what they were subjecting their infants to. I wanted them to know what I wished I had known before allowing my own sons to be cut. I wanted them to make an informed decision on behalf of their sons. The medical establishment knew this would be devastating to their income and to their image as providers of loving care. They fired me for my efforts because they couldn't silence me. It's the best thing they could have done, however, because now I am no longer muzzled by an economically-motivated medical community. I am free to promulgate the truth of this barbaric practice and help put a stop to it."
Help put a stop to it is exactly what she has done. NOCIRC has spawned a grass-roots movement all across this country and has been largely responsible for the drop in circumcision rates over the past ten years. Milos' efforts have also prompted other health-care practitioners to enlist in the cause. Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) was founded in 1996 and now counts physicians from all over the world among its ranks. "Many doctors recognize that no one has the right to forcibly remove sexual body parts from another individual," says Dr. George Denniston, President. "They recognize that doctors should have no role in this painful, unnecessary procedure inflicted on the newborn. Routine circumcisions have been found to violate not only the Golden Rule, but the first tenet of medical practice, 'First, Do No Harm'. Amazingly, circumcision violates all seven principles of the A.M.A. Code of Ethics, and yet doctors continue to do it!" Dr. Denniston goes on to point out that, "Circumcision is not surgery, by definition. Surgical procedures have been defined as: repair of wounds, extirpation of diseased organs or tissue, reconstructive surgery, and physiologic surgery (i.e. sympathectomy). Routine circumcision does not fall into any of these categories. Therefore, routine infant male circumcision is not a valid surgical procedure."
Besides the pain of the initial crushing and cutting, circumcision harms in many other ways. First, the male glans and inner foreskin, just like the glans clitorides and inner labia of women, are actually internal structures covered by mucous membrane that, when exposed to the air and harsh environment through circumcision, develop a tough, dry covering to protect the delicate, sensitive tissue. It's sort of like if you went around with your eyelids pulled back or your tongue sticking out all the time or if a woman were to walk around with her labia pulled back exposing the clitoris and internal lining to the air. The moist, warm membranes of eye, tongue, clitoris or labia would react to the dry air and defend against it. The nerve endings would become dulled because layers of cells build-up in a process called keratinization. This keratin, a tough, insoluble protein substance, is the chief structural constituent of hair, nails, horns, and hoofs. Over time, these once exquisitely sensual organs acquire all the sensitivity of an old garden glove.
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