...Continued from Part 1
MEDICAL BENEFITS FROM CIRCUMCISION
[The claim that circumcison prevents HIV/AIDS is dealt with in more detail on another page of this site..]
In the USA the estimated risk of HIV per heterosexual exposure is 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000. If one partner is HIV positive and otherwise healthy then a single act of unprotected vaginal sex carries a 1 in 300 risk for a woman and as low as a 1 in 1000 risk for a man . (The rates are very much higher for unprotected anal sex and intravenous injection). In Africa, however, the rate of HIV infection is up to 10% in some cities. (A possible reason for this big difference will be discussed later.) In Nairobi it was first noticed that among 340 men being treated for STDs they were 3-times as likely to be HIV- positive if they had genital ulcers or were uncircumcised (11% of these men had HIV) . Subsequently another report showed that amongst 409 African ethnic groups spread over 37 countries the geographical distribution of circumcision practices indicated a correlation of lack of circumcision and high incidence of AIDS . [But correlation is not causation.] In 1990 Moses in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that amongst 700 African societies involving 140 locations and 41 countries there was a considerably lower incidence of HIV in those localities where circumcision was practiced [85,86]. Truck drivers, who generally exhibit more frequent prostitute contact, have shown a higher rate of HIV if uncircumcised. Interestingly, in a West African setting, men who were circumcised but had residual foreskin were more likely to be HIV-2 positive than those in whom circumcision was complete .
[Neither circumcision nor HIV transmission takes place in a social vacuum. In any group, some other factor altogether - such as Islam - may strongly influence the incidence of both.]
Of 33 cross-sectional studies, 22 have reported statistically significant association [e.g., 26,27,54,56,102,136], by univariate and multivariate analysis, between the presence of the foreskin and HIV infection (4 of these were from the USA). 5 reported a trend (including 1 US study) [84,86]. [This "trend" seems to be circumcisionist jargon for a correlation that falls below the level of significance.] The 6 that saw no difference were 4 from Rwanda and 2 from Tanzania. In addition there have been 5 prospective studies and 2 from Kenya and 1 from Tanzania reported statistically significant association. The increased risk in the significant studies ranged from 1.5 to 9.6. One study, in 1998 from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where most men are circumcised, noted that married women, with one sex partner, had a 4-fold higher relative risk of HIV if their husband was uncircumcised .
The findings have, moreover, led various workers, Moses and Caldwell included, to propose that circumcision be used as an important intervention strategy in order to reduce AIDS [The form and content of the studies strongly suggests that the wish to circumcise came first. The Caldwell study used national borders - artifacts of the 19th century "carve-up of Africa" - as markers for circumcision status, rather than any check of the men's penises themselves.] [17,38,54,64,77,85,86]. Such advice has been taken up, with newspaper advertisements from clinics in Tanzania offering this service to protect against AIDS. [There have also been anecdotal accounts of intact men being attacked as "AIDS carriers" and forcibly circumcised.]
Perhaps the most interesting study of the risk of HIV infection imposed by having a foreskin is that by Cameron, Plummer and associates published as a large article in Lancet in 1989 . It was conducted in Nairobi. Rather than look at the existing infection rate in each group, these workers followed HIV negative men until they became infected. The men were visiting prostitutes, numbering approx. 1,000, amongst whom there had been an explosive increase in the incidence of HIV from 4% in 1981 to 85% in 1986. These men were thus at high risk of exposure to HIV, as well as other STDs. From March to December 1987, 422 men were enrolled into the study. Of these, 51% had presented with genital ulcer disease (89% chancroid, 4% syphilis, 5% herpes) and the other 49% with urethritis (68% being gonorrhea). 12% were initially positive for HIV-1. Amongst the whole group, 27% [114 men, rather few to be drawing statistical conclusions from, to be applied across the whole of Africa] were not circumcised. They were followed up each 2 weeks for 3 months and then monthly until March 1988. During this time 8% of 293 men seroconverted (i.e., 24 men), the mean time being 8 weeks. These displayed greater prostitute contact per month (risk ratio = 3), more presented with genital ulcers (risk ratio = 8; P < 0.001) and more were uncircumcised (risk ratio = 10; P < 0.001). Logistic regression analysis indicated that the risk of seroconversion was independently associated with being uncircumcised (risk ratio = 8.2; P < 0.0001), genital ulcers (risk ratio = 4.7; P = 0.02) and regular prostitute contact (risk ratio = 3.2; P = 0.02).
[Applying this kind of high-powered analysis to such small numbers is bad statistics. This would be clearer if the actual number of intact men who seroconverted was shown.] The cumulative frequency of seroconversion was 18% and was only 2% for men with no risk factors, compared to 53% for men with both risk factors. Only one circumcised man with no ulcer seroconverted. Thus 98% of seroconversion was associated with either or both cofactors. [Notice how genital ulcer and intactness are lumped together, and then intactness is made to take all the blame.] In 65% there appeared to be additive synergy, the reason being that ulcers increase infectivity for HIV. This involves increased viral shedding in the female genital tract of women with ulcers, where HIV-1 has been isolated from surface ulcers in the genital tract of HIV-1 infected women. In this African study the rate of transmission of HIV following a single exposure was 13% (i.e., very much higher than in the USA). It was suggested that concommitant STDs, particularly chancroid , may be a big risk factor, but there could be other explanations as well.
[One is "dry sex", the custom of women drying their vaginas with astringent herbs, which may be more practical for intact men, but create microtears that help to transmit the virus.]
It was suggested that the foreskin could physically trap HIV-infected vaginal secretions and provide a more hospitable environment for the infectious innoculum. Also, the increased surface area, traumatic physical disruption during intercourse and inflammation of the glans penis (balanitis) could aid in recruitment of target cells for HIV-1. The port of entry could potentially be the glans, subprepuce and/or urethra. In a circumcised penis the drier, cornified skin may prevent entry and account for the findings. The inner lining of the foreskin is relatively immune deficient, with only 8 of the immune-protective Langerhans cells per square millimetre in the uncircumcised cf. 174 on the external surface of the foreskin, as for other exposed skin on the penis and body in general .
Studies in the USA have not been as conclusive. Some studies have shown a higher incidence in uncircumcised men . But in one in New York City, for example, no significant correlation was found, but the patients were mainly intravenous drug users and homosexuals, so that any existing effect may have been obscured. A study in Miami, however, of heterosexual couples did find a higher incidence in men who were uncircumcised, and, in Seattle homosexual men were twice as likely to be HIV positive if they were uncircumcised .
In an editorial review in 1994 of 26 studies it was pointed out that more work was needed in order to reduce potential biases in some of the previous data . At least one study since then has controlled for such potential confounding factors, confirming a significantly lower HIV prevalence among circumcised men .
The sorts of health problems faced by the third-world, coupled with a lack of circumcision may account for the rapid spread of HIV through Asia . The reason for the big difference in apparent rate of transmission of HIV in Africa and Asia, where heterosexual exposure has led to a rapid spread through these populations and is the main method of transmission, compared with the very slow rate of penetration into the heterosexual community in the USA and Australia, could be related at least in part to a difference in the type of HIV-1 itself . In 1995 an article in Nature Medicine discussed findings concerning marked differences in the properties of different HIV-1 subtypes in different geographical locations . A class of HIV-1 termed clade E is prevalent in Asia and differs from the clade B found in developed countries in being highly capable of infecting Langerhans cells found in the foreskin, so accounting for its ready transmission across mucosal membranes. The Langerhans cells are part of the immune system [Correct: Dr Morris is promoting removal of part of the immune system - perhaps its front line - in order to protect against HIV] and in turn carry the HIV to the T-cells, whose numbers are severely depleted as a key feature of AIDS. The arrival of the Asian strain in Australia was reported in Nov 1995 and has the potential to utilize the uncircumcised male as a vehicle for rapid spread through the heterosexual community of this country in a similar manner as it has done in Asia. It could thus be a time-bomb waiting to go off and should be a major concern for health officials.
Sexual transmission of HIV and other STDs would be reduced by use of barrier protection such as condoms. Despite the campaigns, passion will over-ride compliance on occasions in the most sexually promiscuous, at-risk group, who are at an age when risk-taking behaviour is prevalent (cf. smoking in young people vis-a-vis the anti-smoking campaign), with tragic consequences. Many young people do not use condoms and openly scoff at the idea, despite the health warnings. Indeed it may be a sign of machismo to the young adult. Thus education is only part of the answer and where an additional simple procedure is available to reduce the risk, then logic dictates that it should be used. [But when sexual behaviour is concerned, logic flies out the window. If circumcision is promoted as "reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS, it will inevitably taken as a complete preventitive and substitute for safe sex.] The result will be many lives saved. [Wrong, lost.]
In the setting of Australia, perhaps the first, albiet small and restricted, but interesting survey of circumcised vs uncircumcised men and their partners was conducted by Sydney scientist ["]James Badger[" - the name is a pseudonym. ] [9,10] (who regards himself as neutral on the issue of circumcision [This claim is open to dispute. "James Badger" vehemently advocates circumcision on the "circlist" circumfetishist website.]). It involved responses to a questionaire published in Australian Forum magazine [a sex magazine] or placed in Sydney clinics of the Family Planning Association of New South Wales. [In other words, the sample was self-selected from people with a particular interest in sex. This invariably introduces unknown biases that make the sample quantitatively invalid.] There were 180 participants (79 male, 101 female) who were aged 15-60. The women were mainly (50%) in the 20-30 year-old age group cf. 25% of the men, more of whom (33%) were aged 30-40. It found that:
18% of uncircumcised males underwent circumcision later in life anyway. [That percentage is misleading without an actual number: few Australian men of that age would have been left intact, and such a small number is highly subject to random fluctuations.]
21% of uncircumcised men who didn't, nevertheless wished they were circumcised. (There were also almost as many men who wished they hadnt been circumcised and it could be that at least some men of either category may have been seeking a scapegoat for their sexual or other problems. In addition, this would no doubt be yet another thing children could blame their parents for, whatever their decision was when the child was born.) [Men's unhappiness with their circumcision status arises solely from the existence of routine infant circumcision in both cases. However, men who are unhappy about being intact (and who want to conform with their peers) have a ready solution. Men who are unhappy about being circumcised have only the tedious and incomplete solution of foreskin restoration.]
No difference in sexual performance (consistent with Masters & Johnson).
[Masters and Johnson found nothing about circumcision and sexual performance. Their pro-circumcision bias is evident. They performed a non-sexual test on the glans only and found no significant difference. Clearly, circumcised men would have failed any test of the sensitivity of the foreskin.]
Slightly higher sexual activity in circumcised men.
No difference in frequency of sexual intercourse for older uncircumcised vs. circumcised men.
Men circumcised as adults were very pleased with the result. The local pain when they awoke from the anaesthetic was quickly relieved by pain killers (needed only for one day), and all had returned to normal sexual relations within 2 weeks, with no decrease in sensitivity of the penis and claims of 'better sex'. (Badgers findings are, moreover, consistent with every discussion the author has ever had with men circumcised as adults, as well as email received from a number of such men. The only cases to the contrary were a testimonial in a letter I received from a member of UNCIRC and a very brief email message that didnt say why.)
[Would a man unhappy about being circumcised want to discuss it with Dr Morris?]
Women with circumcised lovers were more likely to reach a simultaneous climax (29% vs. 17% of the study population grouped across the orgasmic spectrum of boxes for ticking labelled together, man first, man after and never come; some ticked more than one box).
Women who failed to reach an orgasm were 3 times more likely to have an uncircumcised lover.
(These data could, however, possibly reflect behaviours of uncircumcised males that might belong to lower socio-economic classes and/or ethnic groups whose attitudes concerning sex and women may differ from the better educated groups in whom circumcision is more common.)
[More bigotry: intact men are just rough lower-class brutes, it seems.]
Circumcision was favoured by women for appearance and hygiene. (Furthermore, some women were nauseated by the smell of the uncircumcised penis, where, as mentioned earlier bacteria and other micro-organisms proliferate under the foreskin.)
The uncircumcised penis was found by women to be easier to elicit orgasm by hand.
The circumcised penis was favoured by women for oral sex (fellatio).
These findings are consistent with later studies. In a survey of new mothers, hygeine and appearance were the two major reasons for choosing to have their newborn son circumcised . There was a strong correlation between their sons circumcision status and the womans ideal male partners cicumcision status for intercourse. Thus by being circumcised they thought that their sons would likewise be more attractive to a future sexual partner (with the implication that they would be at an advantage in passing on their, and therefore the mothers, genes to the subsequent generation). [Evolutionary biology meets circumcision! If there has been any study showing that intact men have any problem finding a spouse, Dr Morris fails to produce it.] Their own preference thus affected their choice for their sons. 92% said the circumcised penis was cleaner, 90% said it looked sexier, 85% it felt nicer to touch and 55% smelled more pleasant. Even women who had only ever had uncircumcised partners preferred the look of the circumcised penis. Only 2% preferred an uncircumcised penis for fellatio, with 82% preferring the circumcised variety. Preference for intercourse for circ. vs uncirc. was 71% vs 6%, respectively; manual stimulation, 75% vs 5%; visual appeal, 76% vs 4%. What then is sexier about a circumcised penis? Quite likely it is that the glans is exposed in both the erect and unerect state. American producers of erotic films and publishers of photographic works choose circumcised men, or at least uncircumcised men whose foreskin is smooth and free from loose, wrinkled skin, as the latter lacks visual appeal, especially to those who are not used to seeing an uncircumcised penis. [I analyse the Williamson and Williamson study fully on another page.] For example, Elaine, in an episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld stated that "[the uncircumcised penis] looks like an alien!" [Seinfeld is among the TV sitcoms whose pro-circumcision bias is discussed on another page.]
As far as sex is concerned, the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) in the USA found that uncircumcised men were more likley to experience sexual dysfunctions . [...defined very loosely to include "anxiety about sexual performance" - which intact men might very well feel in a foreskin-hostile society]. This was slight at younger ages, but became quite significant later in life and included finding it twice as difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. [Laumann's analysis of the NHSLS figures has several problems, such as relying on self-reporting for circumcision status when this has been shown to be often wrong.] It was also discovered that circumcised men engaged in a more elaborate set of sexual practices. [This could equally be interpreted as "having more sex, enjoying it less"] Not surprisingly, in view of the findings above, circumcised men received more fellatio. [...and gave more cunnilingus - the study refers to "active" and "passive heterosexual oral sex" - suggesting that something else is at work.] However, they also masturbated more, a finding that, ironically, contradicts the apparent wisdom in Victorian times that circumcision would reduce the urge to masturbate. (Contrary to anti-circ. propaganda, circumcision was not used to reduce masturbation, but rather to prevent smegma and itching, so stopping males scratching their genitalia, which co-incidentally sometimes led to arousal [It was not coincidental at all; the literature is very specific that the ultimate aim was to prevent masturbation. The pain of circumcision was also invoked as part of the deterrent effect.]). As noted in other studies, circumcision rates were greatest among whites and those who were better-educated, reflecting their exposure to and ability to evaluate and respond to scientific information [...and unscientific misinformation...] about circumcision. [The difference probably reflects socio-economics more than anything else.] There was little difference between different religious groups. [Actually, conservative Protestants were less likely to be circumcised than other religions.]
In Britain a class distinction is associated with circumcision, with the Royal Family and the upper classes being circumcised and the lower classes generally not. [This has not been true since the 1940s or 1950s. Circumcision rates, except among Muslims and Jews, are now very low for all classes.] The NHSLS in the USA saw greatest rates among whites and the better educated. There was little difference between different [...Christian...] religious groups. Some ancient cultures and some even today practice infibulation (drawing a ring or similar device through the prepuce or otherwise occluding it for the principlal purpose of making coition impossible) . This is the opposite of circumcision. [Nonsense. Like circumcision, it is a way to exert control over sexual behaviour through modification of the genitals. The nearest thing to an opposite of circumcision is foreskin restoration.] It was, moreover, espoused in Europe and Britain in previous centuries as a way of reducing population growth amongst the poor and to prevent masturbation . [As indeed was circumcision at its beginnings among US genitles.]
Consistent with the accounts above of men circumcised as adults, clinical and neurological testing has not detected any difference in penile sensitivity between men of each category [159,160]. [Those references do not refer.] Sexual pleasure also appears to be the same. [Dr Morris is apparently referring to the sloppy "experiments" by Masters and Johnson, "designed to prove" that there was no difference in sensitivity between cut and intact men. Since the "experiments" were non-sexual in nature and confined to the glans, they proved nothing.]
Circumcision of the neonate: There is no evidence of any long-term psychological harm arising from circumcision. [Morris himself later refers to the greater pain response months afterwards, clearly proving this claim false.] The risk of damage to the penis is extremely rare and avoidable by using a competent, experienced doctor. [who has to gain his/her experience somewhere...] Unfortunately, because it is such a simple, low-risk procedure, [Morris means, "In spite of circumcision being neither simple nor risk-free..."] it had been the practice to assign this job to junior medical staff and nurses, with occasional devastating results. Parents or patients need to have some re-assurance about the competence of the operator.
Also the teaching of circumcision to medical students and practitioners needs to be given greater attention because it is so commonly performed and needs to be done well. [...begging the question that it needs to be done at all, which no medical association in the world asserts.] Surgical methods often use a procedure that protects the penis during excision of the foreskin. The most commonly used devices are the GOMCO clamp, MOGEN clamp and PlastiBell. The latter clamps the foreskin, which then falls off after a few days, and so eliminates the need to actually cut the foreskin off . However, some of these more elaborate methods take up to 15-30 min to perform and therefore expose the baby to a greater period of discomfort. Circumcision can be completed in 15-30 seconds by a competent practitioner using more traditional approaches. Rather than tightly strapping the baby down, swaddling and a pacifier has been suggested [50,151-153]. A special padded, physiological restraint chair has moreover been devised and shown to reduce distress scores by more than 50% . Dr Tom Wiswell strongly advocates the neonatal period as being the best time to perform circumcision, pointing out that the child will not need ligatures or general anaesthesia, nor additional hospitalization [151-153]. Without an anaesthetic the child experiences pain and pain is also present for from a few up to a maximum of 12-24 hours afterwards. The child does not, however, have any long term memory of having been circumcised. [Of course he does. He only has to look down. Morris means "of being circumcised."] A greater responsiveness to subsequent injection for routine immunization may, however, suggest the baby could remember for a short time . [Months later. This suggests that there are permanent changes.] Anaesthesia is therefore advocated (see below). Complication rate is very low (0.2%), as is cost (discussed later).
Children: For children aged 4 months to 15 years a general anaesthetic is generally used and this carries a small risk. Also, ligatures are usually needed. Recently, excellent cosmetic results were reported for all of 346 patients aged 14 to 38 months using electrosurgery, which presents a bloodless operative field . Metal of any kind (such as the Gomco clamp) have to of course be avoided in this procedure. Circumcision later obviously requires a separate (often overnight) visit to hospital. Rate of complications is also greater, but still low (1.7%). Pain lasts for days afterwards and those older than 1-2 years may remember. Cost is also much greater. In adults it may be even more expensive, but can be performed on an outpatient basis, sometimes with local anaesthetic, and pain can last for a week or so, during which time absence from work is required.
Thus when considering when is the best time, it would appear that circumcision in the newborn period is safe and technically easy. It is also cheap, as discussed in the next section. [Right, and we wouldn't want to waste any money when we're modifying a baby's genitals for life, would we?]
Anaesthesia for circumcision is recommended . Dorsal penile nerve block  represents 85% of anaesthetic use in the USA . Ring block, which had initially been used for postcircumcision analgesia , is simpler, and extremely effective [48,70]. In fact this method seems to be the best. Pain from the infiltration of a local anaesthetic is short-lived and significantly less than the pain from an unanaesthetized circumcision . EMLA cream (5% lidocaine/prilocaine; Astra) [132,151-153] reduces pain during circumcision [131,132], and blood sampling in newborn babies , but is less effective than the others [16,70]. Total pain control can be achieved by a general anaesthetic. This can be given routinely for very young children, [Absolutely false!] and if done in a childrens hospital there is virtually no risk. [Ask Dustin Evans, Sr] However, because the operation is so trivial, local anaesthesia is all that is required. For a minority of people the way the circumcision is performed will obviously be dictated by their cultural or religious beliefs.
For some circumcisions, cultural or religious beliefs dictate the method. It is, moreover, acknowledged that the traditional bris might be less traumatic than common institutional approaches . Jewish Mohelim take 10 seconds, with 1 second for excision, postoperative and 60 seconds on average for crying; since there is no crushing of tissue the pain is claimed to be not as severe as techniques used by doctors .
Despite the benefits of anaesthesia, many male newborn circumcisions in North America do not involve anaesthetics and this can be as much as 64-96% in some regions [135,143]. In the USA 84% of paediatric, 80% of family practice and 60% of obstetric programs teach anaethesia/analgaesia techniques . "Given the overwhelming evidence that neonatal circumcision is painful and the evidence of safe and effective anaesthesia/analgesia methods, residency training in neonatal circumcision should include instruction of pain relief techniques" .
In Australia, circumcision is amongst the 40 most frequently performed surgical procedures, occurring more commonly than tooth extraction . For example, in 1992-1993, 14,604 neonatal circumcisions were performed at a cost to Medicare of A$380,000. Interestingly, in 1985 the Federal Minister for Health removed the rebate for newborn circumcision from the Medical Benefits Schedule in response to the [now outmoded] 1983 recommendations of the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia. It was then quickly restored after a public outcry. The scheduled fee is only A$34.10 . Many doctors consider that the fee should be higher in Australia, as such a low fee has the potential to cause some doctors to discourage it based on nonmedical considerations. [A fairly clear admission that greed is the real motivation.]
In the USA, cost is US$89-204, being cheaper in the midwest and more expensive on the east coast. On average the amount per circumcision across all ages versus mean lifetime medical costs in those not circumcised works out about the same . In this analysis it was stated that if the rate of surgical complications from circumcision was less than 0.6% or if risk of penile problems in uncircumcised males exceedeed 17% (cf. current baseline of 14%) then circumcision would be preferred on a cost and lifespan basis .
It is argued by opponents of circumcision that the male himself should be allowed to make the decision about whether he does or does not want to be circumcised. [Yes, this is the central argument of the Intactivist movement: whose penis is it, anyway. This argument is increasingly being recognised by ethicists, and it is implicit in many of the clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc.] However, there are problems with this argument, not the least of which is the fact that the greatest benefits accrue the earlier in life the procedure is performed. [Or at least they are said to do so by a variety of people who seem to have a vested interest in promoting circumcision: the analogy with "Buy now while stocks last! For a short time only!" is a close one.] If left till later ages the individual has already been exposed to the risk of urinary tract infections, [...and every girl is exposed to a much greater risk...] the physical problems and carries a residual risk of penile cancer. Moreover, it would take a very street-wise, outgoing, adolescent male to make this decision and undertake the process of ensuring that is was done. [Not only that, but he might actually decide he likes his foreskin and wants to keep it.] Most males in the late teens and 20s, not to mention many men of any age, are reticent to confront such issues, even if they hold private convictions and preferences about their penis. Moreover, despite having problems with this part of their anatomy, many will suffer in silence rather than seek medical advice or treatment. Really though parental responsibility must over-ride arguments based on the rights of the child. [Why the quotes? Are girl children not protected from FGM by just such "rights"?] Think what would happen if we allowed children to reach the age of legal consent in relation to, for example, immunization, whether they should or should not be educated, etc, etc. [Infant circumcision is more comparable to child abuse, brainwashing by some strange cult, etc.] A period of great benefit would have been lost, to the potential detriment of the person concerned. Parents have the legal right to authorize [necessary] surgical procedures in the best interests of their children [4,34]. For them to make this decision medical practitioners are obliged to disclose to them fully and objectively ALL information relating to circumcision. This includes benefits and risks, prognosis and alternative methods. [and to the many benefits of just leaving the baby's genitals alone.]
Having described the benefits, lets look at the risks. As listed in [151-153], these are:
Excessive bleeding: Occurs in 1 in 1000 treated with pressure or locally-acting agents, but 1 in 4000 may require a ligature and 1 in 20,000 need a blood transfusion [Dr Morris gives no source for these figures. They are probably much higher. A baby needs a blood transfusion if he loses so much as 30ml of blood, about the contents of a large serving spoon.] because they have a previously unrecognized bleeding disorder. [Or if the circumcising doctor accidentally severs one of the large arteries or veins of the tiny penis.] Haemophilia in the family is of course a contra-indication for circumcision.
Infection: Local infections occur in 1 in 100-1,000 and are easily treated with local antibiotics. [As can all the dreadful "infections" that the circumcision was supposed to protect against.] Systemic infections may appear in 1 in 4,000 and require intravenous or intramuscular injection of antibiotics.
Subsequent surgery: Needed for 1 in 1,000 because of skin bridges [Skin bridges are far more common than that. Many men seem to just live with them.] , or removal of too much or too little foreskin. Repair of injury to penis or glans required for 1 in 15,000. Loss of entire penis: 1 in 1,000,0000, and is avoidable by ensuring the practitioner performing the procedure is competent. Injuries (rare) can be repaired  and in the infinitely ["infinitely"? Not at all, here are some cases.] remote instance of loss of the penis it can be reattached surgically . [Not if it is destroyed completely, like that of David Reimer ("John/Joan/John") All the above statistics seem gross underestimates.]
Local anaesthetic: The only risk is when the type of anaesthetic used is a dorsal penile nerve block, with 1 in 4 having a small bruise at the injection site. This will disappear.
Death: The records show that between 1954 and 1989, during which time 50,000,000 circumcisions were performed in the USA there were only 3 deaths. [Clearly there is something wrong with those records.] (But there were 11,000 from penile cancer, a disease essentially confined to the uncircumcised . [This is false, as detailed above.])
One function of the foreskin was probably to protect the head of the penis from long grass, shrubbery, etc when humans wore no clothes, where evolutionarily our basic physiology and psychology are little different than our cave-dwelling ancestors. [The foreskin has many protective functions.] Also, the moist tip would facilitate quick penetration of a female, where lengthy fore-play and intercourse would be a survival disadvantage, since the risk to the copulators from predators and human enemies would be greater the longer they were engaged in sex. Dr Guy Cox from The University of Sydney [an electron microscopist whose specialty is plant skeletons] has recently suggested that the foreskin could in fact be the male equivalant of the hymen, and served as an impediment to sexual intercourse in adolescent privaeval humans before the advent in our species of civilization and cultures . [It is hard to see how the foreskin can both facilitate intercourse and be an impediment to it. No way is the foreskin analogous to the hymen (women have a clitoral prepuce as well as a hymen). It may impede penetration in rare cases, but anyone who thinks it usually does is very unfamiliar with it. Nor is penetration the beginning and end of intercourse - unless the partners are unlucky! Dr Morris does not discusss any other possible functions of the foreskin. But then, he doesn't seem to like it very much.] Way back then the foreskin would have reduced successful sexual acts in those too young to adequately care for any offspring that might arise. [Since the foreskin is usually retactable by the age of about three, this reduction seems to end somewhat prematurely.] With civilization control of the sexual behaviour of the young by society made the physical mechanism redundant and society introduced circumcision to be [sic] free the individual from the impediment of having a foreskin. [If one is concerned to "free the individual" the logical thing to do is let him decide what parts of his penis he wants to keep.] Interestingly, the physical difficulties experienced by the uncircumcised may explain why the word for uncircumcised in Hebrew means obstruction or to impede, so explaining the Biblical term uncircumcised heart when referring to obstructionism. [Dr Morris' biblical exegisis is fully up to the standard of his science. The "obstruction" referred to is spiritual.]
There are several theories and each may have elements of truth. As mentioned above, according to Cox, the ritual removal of the foreskin in diverse human traditional cultures, ranging from Muslims to Aboriginal Australians could be a sign of civilization in that human society aquired the ability to control, through education and religion, the age at which sexual intercourse could begin. [It seems odd to define "civilisation" to include Australian aboriginals and exclude classical Greeks.]
Another compelling explanation involves the ritualization of circumcisions prophylactic effects, especially as many different human groups and cultures that live in desert or other hot environments have adopted it as part of their customs. Infections, initiated by the aggravation of dirt and sand, are not uncommon under such conditions and have even crippled whole armies, where it is difficult to achieve sanitation during prolonged battle. Historically it was not uncommon for soldiers to be circumcised in preparation for active service. [Sadistic medical officers also played their part.] The Judeo-Muslim practice of circumcision quite likely had its origin in Egyptian civilization, where there is evidence of a circumcised mummy at the time the Hebrews inhabited Egypt , as well as illustrations of the operation itself and of circumcised Pharoahs, dating back to 3000 BC . One possible reason the Egyptians could have circumcised themselves and their slaves might have been to prevent schistosomal infection . Urinary tract obstruction and haematuria are common in localities such as the Nile Valley that are inhabited by the blood fluke, Schistosoma haematobium, and the foreskin would undoubtedly possess the adverse ability of being able to hold water [...to hold water...?] infected with the cercaria stage of the life cycle of this parasite and so facilitate its entry into the body. The perpetuation of the procedure by the Jews may have subsequently been driven by a desire to maintain cleanliness in an arid, sandy desert environment. Such considerations could also explain why it is practiced in multiple other cultures that live in such conditions. [But not all, by any means.] In each instance, the original practical reason became lost as the ritual persisted as a religious rite in many of the various cultures of the world. In the Muslim religion circumcision occurs in childhood and the age can be variable.
I have some wonderful photographs of a group of Masai boys in their early teens that I met in Kenya in 1989 dressed in their dark circumcision robes, with white feathers as headwear, and white painted facial decoration that stood out against their very black skin. Each wore a pendant that was the razor blade used for their own circumcision. [One can't help wondering whether Dr Morris's enthusiasm is for the appearance of these youths or for the idea of their mass circumcision.] The ceremony that they had gone through is a special part of their tribal culture and was very important to these boys, who were proud to show that they were now men. In other cultures it is associated with preparation for marriage and as a sign of entry into manhood. [Yes, the association of having part of one's penis cut off and "manhood" is very strange and not confined to "primitive" people. Much the same superstition applies in the enlightened west.]
Interestingly, in Japan, which, like most of Asia, is traditionally a noncircumcising nation, circumcision has recently started to become a fashion amongst young men. The procedure is currently being promoted by way of articles and advertisements in the vast array of girlie, sex magazines read by young males. The message is that it improves hygeine and attractiveness to women.
Lack of circumcision:
Is responsible for a 12-fold higher risk of urinary tract infections. Risk = 1 in 20.
Carries a higher risk of death in the first year of life (from complications of urinary tract infections: viz. kidney failure, meningitis and infection of bone marrow).
One in ~400-900 uncircumcised men will get cancer of the penis. A quarter of these will die from it and the rest will require at least partial penile amputation as a result. (In contrast, penile cancer never occurs or is infinitesimally rare in men circumcised at birth [Simply false.]). (Data from studies in the USA, Denmark and Australia, which are not to be confused with the often quoted, but misleading, annual incidence figures of 1 in 100,000).
Is associated with balanitis (inflammation of the glans), posthitis (inflammation of the foreskin) [Yes, having a foreskin, or any other organ, means it can become inflamed. The foreskin is the only one that gets cut off for it, though.], phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (constriction of the penis by a tight foreskin). [Again, having a working part means it may not always work properly.]Up to 18% [This is like the advertisements offering "up to" 50% price reductions....] of uncircumcised boys will develop one of these by 8 years of age, whereas all are unknown in the circumcised. Risk of balanoposthitis = 1 in 6. Obstruction to urine flow = 1 in 10-50.
Means problems that may result in a need for circumcision later in life. [Keeping any organ of the body carries the risk that you may lose it some day.] Also, the cost can be 10 times higher for an adult.
Is the biggest risk factor for heterosexually-acquired AIDS virus infection in men. [No, the biggest risk factor is unprotected sex with an infected person.] 8-times higher risk by itself, and even higher when lesions from STDs are added in. Risk per exposure = 1 in 300.
Is associated with higher incidence of cervical cancer in the female partners of uncircumcised men.
Getting circumcised will result in:
Having to go through a very minor surgical procedure that carries with it small risks.
Lower risk of urinary tract infections.
Less chance of aquiring AIDS heterosexually. [through unsafe sex, if the studies Dr Morris chooses were correct.]
Almost complete elimination of the [already tiny...] risk of penile cancer. [ ...and even less than Dr Morris said]
More favourable hygeine for the man and his sexual partner.
Better sexual function on average.
A penis that is regarded by most as being more attractive. [Only where circumcision is customary, and that is changing.]
The information that appears in this review should prove informative to medical practitioners and health workers and thereby enhance the quality of information that is conveyed to parents of male children and to adult men. It should also prove to have educational value to others, especially the parents of boys, but also adult men, whether circumcised or not. It is hoped that as a result of reading the information presented here the choice that has to be made concerning circumcision, especially of male infants, is much more informed. [And even more so after reading these rebuttals.] Although there are benefits to be had at any age, they are greater the younger the child. [...and the harder it is for him to resist...] Issues of informed consent may be analogous to those parents have to consider for other medical procedures, such as whether or not to immunize their child. [No, more like the issues around footbinding or Female Genital Mutilation.] The question to be answered is do the benefits outweigh the risks. [No, the first question to be asked is, "Whose penis is it?"] When considering each factor in isolation there could be some difficulty in choosing. However, when viewed as a whole, in my opinion the answer to whether to circumcise a male baby is [Wait for it... Can you guess... It's coming...] YES. [Surprise!] Nevertheless, everybody needs to weigh up all of the pros and cons for themselves and make their own best decision. [Exactly what we say, which is why "their own best decision" shouldn't be preempted in babyhood.] I trust that the information I have provided in this article will help in the decision-making process. [And I trust that the information I have provided - including the information Dr Morris has not provided, will too.]
Brian J. Morris, PhD DSc Fax: +61 2 9351-2227 University Academic (in medical sciences)
[University Academics - especially those with two doctorates - do not usually refer to themselves as such. Dr Dr Morris seems to be insecure about his status. NB: at the beginning he claimed to be unbiased because he was not a doctor.]
[Permission this commentator unreservedly accepts!]
[The References for this article have been moved to another file to save downloading time. The orginal of this article is at http://www-personal.usyd.edu.au/~bmorris/circumcision.shtml]
New book: "In Favour of Circumcision" ["Balanced," remember? ] by Dr Brian Morris, published by [...] This book expands on the information in this website and includes much new material, including many personal stories from men circumcised as adults, as babies and who are uncircumcised. [Most intact men have very little to say: no problems, their foreskin works so well they don't even notice how important its contribution is. One doubts that these are the men Dr Morris has chosen to interview.] You can order a copy from [...]
Here is part of a review of Dr Morris's book published in 'Australian Medicine (1999, vol.11, no.11, p.18):
"In those with a normal bladder and kidneys the argument for circumcision may be akin to suggesting prophylactic removal of the tonsils or the appendix; the latter are obviously as silly as taking seriously any study
supposedly concluding that either version of the penis 'looks better'.
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