Circumcision in Law




1. Brain-damage in Alaska

Seattle, March 8, 2000

After 13 years, justice for boy left
brain-damaged after circumcision

Betrayed by doctors and lawyer,
family finally wins case


A Washington couple has finally won justice for their son, 13 years after he was left brain-damaged after his circumcision.

When Jacob Sweet was born at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, in January 1986, it was a dream come true for his parents. But Beverly and Gary Sweet's dream took a nightmarish turn only nine days later when they took him back to the hospital for treatment of an infected circumcision and the hospital returned a severely brain-damaged and blind child. The nightmare continued for 13 years - but a major settlement was announced today between the family, now of Bothell, Washington, and the Alaska law firm that handled the Sweet's medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and the pediatrician who treated Jacob.

The Sweets were twice forced to fight for their son in court. First, they sought justice from the hospital and doctor who they allege caused Jacob's injuries, and who then "lost" the medical records critical to proving their case. Then, after Alaska lawyer Alan Sherry mishandled that case, they were forced to resort to the courts again.

Seattle attorney Mark Johnson represented the Sweets in the second suit, for legal malpractice, arguing that Sherry had misrepresented himself as a seasoned malpractice lawyer and then failed to argue their case properly.

"This has been tragedy at every turn for this family," Johnson said. "First the healthcare system devastated their child. Then, when they most needed an aggressive, experienced and competent lawyer, an attorney with no malpractice experience misled them and failed to properly [argue] the case. That cost them their opportunity to recover damages from the hospital and the pediatrician."

The Underlying Medical Malpractice Case

The Sweet's tragedy started on January 25, 1986, in Anchorage, Alaska, when they brought nine-day-old Jacob back to Providence Hospital after he exhibited signs of an infected circumcision. [Actually, their tragedy began when they were given the advice that convinced them to agree to have him circumcised. HY] Jacob was admitted to the pediatric ward and had seizures for 24 hours, but their pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Tulip, was absent most of that time and failed to refer Jacob to a neonatologist until after he had suffered brain damage that would leave him physically devastated, developmentally delayed, and utterly dependent for the rest of his life.

[At that trial, Dr Thomas Wiswell, an expert witness for the defendants, argued that Jacob's brain damage could not have resulted from his circumcision, but was probably caused by an unknown virus.]

Injustice compounded

The Sweet's calamity compounded when the Alaska law firm they hired to try their medical malpractice suit improperly handled the case. Jacob's medical records disappeared shortly after his time in the hospital, suggesting that someone had tried to cover up a negligent act. Sweet's first legal team failed to present this evidence properly. The Sweets lost the suit, and with it, any hope of recovering damages from the hospital.

With mounting medical bills, they hired Mark Johnson to represent them in an action for legal negligence. Legal malpractice cases are difficult to prove, because the plaintiff must not only prove the defendant attorney was negligent, but that the client would have won the case if the attorney had acted differently.

The amount awarded to the Sweets is confidential as part of the settlement agreement.

"This brings some peace of mind to our lives, although we are still convinced that Jacob's doctor and the hospital have never told the truth," said Beverly Sweet. "At least now we can provide for Jacob's medical care and future."

(The original press-release is at http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000308/wa_johnson_1.html)

Jacob Sweet lived with severe disability and died on September 16, 2012


2. Damages in Western Australia

The Sunday Times, Perth
Sunday, December 26, 1999

Botched circumcision leads to $360,000 in damages:
The cruel cut that ruined a man's life

By Bruce Butler

A PERTH man has won a $360,000 [$US232,663] damages payout after a WA doctor admitted he botched a circumcision operation which left the man with a badly deformed penis.

The man, 26, who was operated on at birth, has never had sexual intercourse.

Due to a lack of information on neonatal circumcision, he grew up believing he was deformed. He was unable to obtain an erection until he had corrective surgery at the age of 18.

The man, who wants to be known only as "John", [now speaking in his real name, Shane Peterson] said he has a permanent lack of sensation in his penis but also has suffered extreme pain.

Shane Peterson
Shane Peterson

He suffered severe psychological problems from his late teens which led to an attempted suicide at 18, six months after partially successful reconstructive surgery.

In January 1992 when his injuries were diagnosed as a bungled circumcision, he turned against his parents, hating them for allowing the awful operation to be done.

In 1997 he sued the G[eneral]P[ractitioner] who circumcised him.

This month John received an out-of-court settlement after the doctor admitted liability for the injuries and agreed to the payout.

His lawyer Hayden Stephens, from the law firm Slater and Gordon, said the payout was one of the biggest in Australia for that type of injury.

"This young man has suffered a horrific consequence as a result of this negligent procedure and he now has to live with the problem for the rest of his life," Mr Stephens said.

"I am really pleased for him, but no amount of money will ever truly compensate him for the injuries he has suffered."

Now completing a doctorate in medical science, John said he took legal action in a bid to draw attention to circumcision and to try to eradicate it in Australia, if not the world.

He said circumcision was a disgusting, unnecessary act of mutilation which the medical profession had forced on unsuspecting parents for years.

"For my whole life I've been imprisoned in pain and exiled from pleasure. I'm serving a prison sentence for a crime that someone else committed - that's the reality for me," he said.

In John's operation, still routinely performed without anaesthetic in Australian hospitals, almost all of the penile skin was removed which prevented the penis from growing normally.

John said: "Parents want to see their children grow up to live healthy and happy lives and many parents have consented to circumcision because the Australian medical profession convinced them that it was a quick and painless procedure that was essential to avoid health problems.

"Not only is the claim that it is beneficial wrong, the AMA has not adequately informed parents of the surgical risks involved.

"I tool legal action against the doctor who circumcised me because I hate circumcision and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did nothing to stop other babies being injured and mutilated in the same way as me.

"I don't want to walk down the street and see a young mother with baby boys and wonder and worry whether they've had done to them what was done to me."

Born in 1973, John's "routine" operation became a nightmare he had had to cope with all his life.

The young GP who delivered him cut way far too much skin and had to stretch the remaining soft, scrotal tissue and stitch it in place.

The result was a mess.

"The shape isn't right, the length isn't right - it's shorter than it should be - and the glans (head) is actually twisted a bit," John said.

Believing he was deformed, he hid from embarrassing change-room and shower situations at school.

Throughout adolescence - difficult enough years when all is well - the psychological harm matched his physical scars.

He was more interested in science than sport and became withdrawn and studious.

He prospered academically by pscyhologically was crying out for help.

When he went to university, he realised he had a serious problem and the bungled circumcision was diagnosed.

He fought severe depression and contemplated suicide but opted for surgery, hoping it would save him.

"The pain involved in that was horrific and it lasted for years and still now I get aches and pains from time to time," he said.

"With all the pain, the psychological trauma and embarrassment that went with having that surgery, it wasn't worth it.

"But I was 18 years old, I had something very badly wrong with me and I was desperate. "I had to try something."

Skin was taken from his upper thighs and grafted to his penis, but he was left with little real sensation.

The grafted skin had unsightly leg hairs growing from it, which required further electrolysis and caused further scarring.

He remains angry that he was circumcised unnecessarily and that the medical profession continues to push the operation on unknowing parents. He is outraged that 12 per cent of Australian boys are still circumcised.

"Babies should never be circumcised," he said.

"My case was a totally unnecessary circumcision. Yet my mother and father were told it was essential for me to be circumcised to avoid health problems."

John said that some medical authorities still claimed circumcision reduced the rate of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases - a claim he says has been proven wrong by medical data.

He said it was wrong that doctors, who charged about $200 to perform a circumcision, continue to make a small fortune from such a potentially harmful procedure.

"I have been assaulted and mutilated and for my whole life I am living with an injury," he said.

John said his injuries made it almost impossible to contemplate a relationship with a woman and he found it hard to make friends.

He was angry with his parents but he now acknowledged that the operation was not their fault.

His mother, a close and loving supporter who carries her own guilt over the surgery, said: "He's never had a relationship with a woman because of how he feels about his body.

"At the most important stage of his life when he should have been dating and girls were showing an interest in him, he withdrew".

She said they should have been told how to clean a boy's foreskin, not advised to have a circumcision.

His mother also regretted the blunder was not diagnosed earlier so that he could have corrective surgery at a younger age.

John said he would like to see a support group established in Australia for men who have problems due to circumcision.

Information on circumcision is available on the Internet. The address is http://www.cirp.org

An article about Shane published in an Australian women's magazine is also on this site.


3. Death in Sweden

February 9, 2001

Omskuren treåring dog av bedövning

Circumcised three-year-old died from anaesthesia

En läkare åtalades i dag för vållande till annans död.

Doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter today

En 3-årig pojke dog under det att läkaren utförde en omskärelse på honom. Pojken tros ha döttav en fem gånger för stor dos av bedövningsmedlet Ketogan, uppger Radio Stockholm.

A three-year-old boy died when a doctor was performing a circumcision on him. The boy is believed to have died from a dose of the anaesthetic Ketogan that was five times too strong, says Radio Stockholm.

En treårig pojke i Stockholm var på vårdcentralen för att omskäras i augusti 1999. Några timmar efter ingreppet var pojken död. - Jag har i dag åtalat en läkare för vållande till annas död eftersom jag anser att utredningen visar läkaren gett den lille pojken för mycket bedövningsmedel. säger överåklagare Eva Regner till Radio Stockholm.

A three-year-old boy in Stockholm was at the doctor's to be circumcised in August 1999. A few hours after the procedure the boy was dead.
"Today I have charged a doctor with involuntary manslaughter because I think that the investigation shows that the doctor gave the little boy too much anaesthetic," district attorney Eva Regner told Radio Stockholm.

Fem gånger för hög dos
Medlet var en fem gånger för hög dos av bedövningsmedlet Ketogan. Några timmar efter ingreppet blev pojken slö och fick andningssvårigheter och senare samma dag dog han på väg till sjukhuset. Den legitimerade läkaren hade befogenhet att utföra omskärelsen och hade gjort samma ingrepp flera gångre tidigare. Nu åtalas läkaren för vållande till annans död av chefsåklagare Eva Regner.

Five times too strong a dose
The drug was a dose of the anaesthetic Ketogan five times too strong. A few hours after the procedure the boy became inert and had trouble breathing, and later the same day he died on the way to hospital. The licensed practitioner was authorised to perform the circumcision and had performed several before. Now the doctor is charged with involuntary manslaughter by district attorney Eva Regner.

"Skett av oaktsamhet"
- Jag anser att utredningen kommit fram till att det här har skett av oaktsamhet. Han har alltså tagit miste på styrkan i det här bedövningsmedlet, säger Eva Regner till Radio Stockholm. I december förra året lade socialförsäkringsminister Ingela Thalén fram ett förslag om att den som utför omskärelse antingen måste vara läkare eller vara utbildad och ha ett särskilt tillstånd. Sådana tillstånd kan exempelvis ges till judiska rabbiner och muslimska imamer. Enligt förslaget måste dessutom båda föräldrarna ge sitt samtycke och så även pojken, om han är tillräckligt gammal för att förstå vad det handlar om.

"The reason was carelessness"
"It's my opinion that the investigation shows that this happened out of carelessness. That is, he has made a mistake about the strength of this anaestetic," Eva Regner told Radio Stockholm. In December last year Ingela Thalén, secretary of social security, proposed that whoever performs circumcisions must either be a doctor or have a special education and license. Such licenses could then be given, for example, to Jewish rabbis and Moslem imams. According to the proposal both parents must agree, and the boy must also give his consent, if he is old enough to understand what it's all about.

"Medicindosen inte för stor"
Enligt Radio Stockholm har läkaren haft invändningar mot den utredning som gjorts gällande dödsfallet och de slutsatser som dragits. Han anser inte att medicindosen var för stor. Stockholms tingsrätt väntas ta upp målet under våren.

"The dose was not too strong"
According to Radio Stockholm the doctor has raised objections to the investigation into the death of the boy, and to the conclusions drawn. He does not think that the dose was too strong. The district court in Stockholm is expected to try the case during the [Northern] spring.

Annika Solhlander TT

Annika Sohlander TT
(translation: Anders Püschel )


4. Legality doubted in a learned legal journal:

Circumcision of healthy boys: Criminal assault?

by G. J. Boyle, J. S. Svoboda, C. P. Price, & J. N. Turner
Journal of Law & Medicine
Vol 7 (February 2000), No. 3, pp. 301-310.

Greg Boyle
Gregory Boyle



Reasons for concern about infant male circumcision under human rights principles include:

  • the loss of highly erogenous sexual tissue which also serves important protective functions;
  • the loss of bodily integrity;
  • traumatic and often highly painful disfigurement;
  • complications including death and the loss of the entire penis;64 and
  • the impermissibility of any mutilation of children's genitals performed with neither their consent nor medical justification.
No national or international medical association in the modern industrialised world, or indeed anywhere in the world, endorses routine circumcision of healthy boys.

Several human rights documents tacitly forbid enforced infant circumcision. Non-therapeutic circumcision of unconsenting minors amounts to culturally sanctioned physical and sexual abuse. No basis in international human rights law or domestic law justifies the discriminatory prohibition of only female genital mutilation.

"Ritual male circumcision is non-therapeutic and is not warranted or justified by medical evidence. This form of mutilation should not be legally distinguished from female circumcision ... presently being prohibited throughout Australia and the Western world. As ritual male circumcision is non-therapeutic, may be against public policy, and clearly is not in the best interests of the child, a parent's consent may be vitiated, leaving persons involved in the procedure liable in negligence, notwithstanding parental religious beliefs."65

Non-therapeutic, invasive and irreversible major surgery, especially sexual reduction surgery on unconsenting minors, is unethical. The standard of care for infrequent events such as infections is antibiotics, not amputation. Circumcision of healthy male minors is useless and traumatic, causing severe and lasting harm physically, sexually and often psychologically. As medical ethicist Margaret Somerville pointed out:

"Moreover, neonatal circumcision is done without consent of the subject, removes healthy tissue with unique anatomical structure and function, and leads to differences in adult sexual behaviour... We need, therefore, to address the issue directly and end the persistent efforts to find a medical rationale for circumcision by removing the cloak of medicine from this procedure.66"

Enforced non-therapeutic genital cutting of unconsenting minors is overdue for recognition by the legal community as sexual mutilation. As we enter the 21st century, appropriate legal action must be taken to safeguard the physical genital integrity of male children.


The full text of this paper is in the CIRP library.


5. Informedness of consent disputed in North Dakota

More recent items about this case.

The Forum, Fargo, N.D.
December 1999

Fargo couple want ban on female genital mutilation to include boys

Parents: Doctor failed to inform them of circumcision risks, benefits

By: Jack Sullivan
The Forum

A Fargo couple want North Dakota’s ban on female genital mutilation ruled unconstitutional because it doesn’t protect infant boys from being circumcised.

James and Anita Flatt also contend a doctor at Fargo’s MeritCare Hospital failed to inform them on the risks and benefits of the procedure before circumcising their newborn son in 1997, according to a lawsuit the Flatts filed in Cass County District Court Thursday against the hospital and the state.

The Flatts say they would not have consented to the circumcision if they were property informed. And if the North Dakota law against female genital mutilation was gender-neutral, then the procedure wouldn’t have been legal, the lawsuit contends.

The Flatts’ lawyer, Zenas Baer, said circumcision is medically unnecessary and compared the female genital mutilation law to one that said only “it is a crime to abuse your female children.”

“That would be ruled unconstitutional within a heartbeat,” he said.

MeritCare spokeswoman Carrie Johnson said hospital officials hadn’t received the lawsuit at the end of the day Thursday and couldn’t respond until they reviewed it.

The Flatts’ son was born early March 6, 1997. That evening, a nurse asked Anita Flatt to sign a consent form for circumcision but didn’t describe the benefits or risks of the procedure, according to the lawsuit. And Flatt was “still in great pain and on medication for the pain” when asked to sign, the lawsuit states.

The next day, Dr. Sunita Kantak spoke briefly with Flatt but didn’t discuss the benefits, risks or potential complications, the lawsuit contends. Baer said James Flatt never was consulted.

According to one estimate, 60 percent of male infants are circumcised in the United States. In North Dakota, the rate is estimated between 80 percent and 90 percent, the lawsuit states.

In March, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that said the benefits of circumcision are not significant enough for the academy to recommend it as a routine procedure.

In light of cultural, religious and ethnic traditions, however, the academy said parents should be given complete information about the potential benefits so they can make an informed choice.

In 1996, a federal judge threw out a similar lawsuit Baer filed in U.S. District Court, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.

Baer said the case filed Thursday differs from the earlier case because it aks for monetary compensation for the procedure performed on the boy, where the federal lawsuit only wanted a ruling against the state law.

“Whether the result will be any different, I can’t guarantee that,” he said.

Baer compared circumcision legislature with lawsuits that were repeatedly filed - and dismissed - before judges started ruling against civil-rights violations.

“Many times these cases are filed and thrown out by the courts, but not until there is an education process do the courts catch on,” he said.

Even if the female genital mutilation law isn’t rewritten to include boys, Baer said the lawsuit may change how doctors handle circumcisions in the state.

“The effect of it may be to raise the bar for the medical profession to tell more about the effects of circumcision on the baby boy,” he said. “And that’s a step in the right direction.”

The judge will hear arguments on April 13, 2000 on the State's motion to dismiss the State as a defendant on the ground that Josiah Flatt (the infant) suffered no injury fairly related to the unconstitutional statute.

The two claims are totally severable, so a dismissal of the constitutional claim would not impair the informed consent issue.


6. Lack of consent in Louisiana

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
17 March, 2000

Patient for heart bypass sues over circumcision

Advocate staff writer

A man who underwent surgery for a bypass at Earl K. Long Medical Center has sued saying the hospital circumcised him without his consent.

The hospital has said the circumcision was a necessary part of the bypass surgery, which was not completed because of complications...

Robert Banks sued the hospital and Dr. Mary Jo Wright on Wednesday in 19th Judicial Court.

Banks says in the suit that he woke up from surgery on Aug. 15, 1995, and discovered he'd been circumcised.

His attorney, Alicia Hoover, says no one ever discussed the possibility of a circumcision with Banks.

"It's troubling," Hoover said. "I don't think anyone who goes in for bypass surgery would ever expect or anticipate (they) would wake up and find that they've been circumcised."

But the state Attorney General's Office has said in court documents that the circumcision was a necessary procedure.

Earl K. Long Medical Center is a state hospital.

The state says in documents filed in response to an earlier suit that a bladder catheterization to monitor kidney function was necessary to the bypass.

A circumcision had to be performed in order to do the catheterization, the documents say.

However, doctors had to close up Banks' chest without performing the bypass because of complications that arose during the surgery.

Hoover says Banks is now too terrified to undergo any further surgeries.

Banks first filed suit in 1996 alleging medical battery.

The state argued he was actually alleging medical malpractice and needed to first go before the state medical review panel.

State District Judge Curtis Calloway ruled the circumcision was medical battery, not medical malpractice.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal later reversed the ruling.

The appellate court said Banks' lawsuit involved medical malpractice and would first have to be submitted to the state medical review panel.

Judge Brady Fitzsimmons dissented, saying the surgical team could have awakened Banks and gotten his permission for the circumcision.

Hoover said Thursday that the state medical review panel concluded malpractice had not been committed. That decision cleared the way for Banks to proceed with a lawsuit.

Barry Toups, a state assistant attorney general, said the circumcision was neither medical battery nor medical malpractice.

Circumcision to enable catheterisation is unknown in non-circumcising regions of the world, such as Europe. Doctors and nurses are taught to retract the foreskin enough to sight the meatus and insert the catheter, then to bring it forward again.

Underlying this story is the contempt in which the doctors held the man's foreskin, and their total failure to appreciate that he might enjoy having it.


7. Inadequate consent in Sweden

Helsingborg Dagblad
onsdag mars 29, 2000
Helsingborg Daily News
Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Pappa åtalas efter omskärelse

Father charged after circumcision

Göteborg. En pappa i Göteborg har åtalats för anstiftan till misshandel sedan hand låtit omskära sin treårige son.

Gothenburg. A father in Gothenburg has been prosecuted with instigation of physical abuse after he permited the circumcison of his three-year-old son.

Omskärelsen av pojken skedde utan att barnets mamma var tilfrågad.

The circumcision of the boy occurred without the child's mother being consulted.

Pappan har enlight åtalet falskt uppgett för läkarna att också mamman gav sitt samtycke till ingreppet. Åklargen skriver också att omskärelse innebar smärta och ömhet hos pojken.

The father had, according to the prosecution, advised doctors that the mother also gave her consent to the operation. The prosecuter writes also that the circumcision involved pain and soreness for the boy.

Föräldrarna är skilda och den treårige pojken bor hos sin manna. När han under en period på några veckor bodde hos pappan lät fadern ta hem en läkare till bostaden. Där utfördes omskärelse, på en bädd på köksbordet.

The parents are divorced and the three-year-old boy lives with his mother. When during a period of several weeks he lived with his father, the father had a doctor visit the home. There the circumcision was performed, on bedding upon the kitcken table.

Operationen skedde enlight läkaren, som arbetar på Sahlgrenska universitetssjukhuset, med lokalbedövning.

The operation was according to the doctor, who works at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, done with local anaesethic.

(TT - Swedish national news agency)


8. United States law already criminalizes female genital mutilation:

18 United States Code Section 116:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
(b) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is:

(1) Necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner; or
(2) Performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife.
(c) In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that person, or any other person, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.

Since 1994, 16 states have passed legislation relating to Female Genital Cutting. In general, the statutes address it in a manner similar to that of the federal law, by prohibiting its practice and instituting criminal sanctions.

Minnesota, Rhode Island and Tennessee prohibit the practice of FGM on adult women as well as on females under the age of 18.

The statutes enacted in California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Oregon and West Virginia explicitly address the conduct of a parent or guardian who permits or allows FGM to be performed on her or his daughter.

In Nevada, a person may be prosecuted for the removal of a child from that state for the purpose of performing FGM.

California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon have enacted legislation addressing the need for culturally sensitive education and outreach to the relevant communities.

Other countries with laws against FGM are shown on the Maps page.


9. Call for eventual ban in Sweden

TT Nyhetsbanken
Datum: 20000510 kl.17:29
The TT Newsbank
Date: May 10, 2000. 5.29pm

BO vill stoppa rituell omskärelse av pojkar

Children's Ombudsman wants ritual circumcision of boys stopped

På sikt bör omskärelse av pojkar utan medicinsk grund förbjudas i Sverige. Det anser Barnombudsmannen (BO) som på onsdagen lämnade sitt remissvar till regeringens lagförslag om omskärelse av pojkar. The circumcision of boys without medical reason should eventually be banned in Sweden. So says the Children's Ombudsman (BO), who on Wednesday submitted her response to the Government's working-paper (with suggested law) on the circumcision of boys.
I lagförslaget står principen om att barnets bästa ska vara styrande för om en omskärelse ska genomföras eller inte inskrivet. I förslaget regleras också vem som ska få lov att utföra ingreppet. Enligt regeringens förslag ska endast personer som fått särskilt tillstånd av Socialstyrelsen - förutom hälso- och sjukvårdspersonal - tillåtas genomföra ingreppet. The principle underpinning the law-proposal is that the child's best interest should be the determining factor in deciding whether a circumcision is to be performed or not permitted. The government's law-proposal also suggests that only people holding special permits from the National Board of Health and Welfare - except personnel of the health care system - be allowed to perform the operation.
I sitt remissvar går BO emot att lekmän trots allt får göra ingreppet, och anser att endast läkare ska få lov att utföra ingreppet i medicinsk miljö och alltid i kombination med smärtlindring. However, in her response the BO opposed letting laypeople perform the operation, maintaining that only doctors should be allowed to do it, in a medical setting and always using pain relief.
I Sverige omskärs cirka 3 000 pojkar varje år, i flera fall av rituella och religiösa skäl. In Sweden, about 3 000 boys are circumicsed every year, usually for ritual and religious reasons.


10. Damages, reprimand in Texas

This case illustrates, first, the desperate need of some men to circumcise, and then the interlocking psychopathologies of the authorities acting in concert to trivialise and sustain the operation.

based on a NOCIRC press release

Doctor pays parents $23,000 for circumcision without consent.

Public reprimand to gynacologist
who "never even apologised"

Dallas,Texas, June 30, 2000:
A suit was settled this week for $23,000, against a Dallas obstetrician for wrongful circumcision . The victim’s parents, Charlie Hardy and Randi Harlan say they also endured indignities from Texas medical and government personnel during their nearly three year long legal battle.

The Texas Medical Board issued Dr. Roosevelt Taylor a public reprimand - his second - on May 19, 2000 for "failure to practice medicine in an acceptable manner."

In September 1997, Hardy and Harlan advised Dr. Taylor that their other children were not circumcised because they felt that circumcision was barbaric and harmful to an infant. On September 26, 1997, when Mrs. Harlan was admitted to Tri-City Hospital in Dallas for delivery, she told the staff that there was to be no circumcision. To prevent an accidental circumcision, the attending nurse threw the circumcision consent form into a nearby trashcan.

Two days after their son’s birth, Hardy and Harlan were stunned when their newborn son was brought to them from the hospital nursery crying and bleeding, and were horrified when they learned that he had just been circumcised by Dr. Taylor. "We were hysterical," recalls Randi, "But when Dr. Taylor stopped by the room his only comment was ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ I mean he’s never even apologized to us." The couple believes Dr. Taylor circumcised their son intentionally in spite of their strong feelings against it.

"How could this have even been a mistake? There was only one other baby with our son in the nursery at the time, we definitely did not sign a consent form, and we specifically told Dr. Taylor that there was to be no circumcision," Charlie Hardy stresses. "We were totally betrayed by our own doctor."

Dr. Taylor’s lack of concern was replayed in the responses Hardy and Harlan received from successive medical and government personnel as they tried to find justice for their newborn child. An attempt to file a police report was met with an amused reaction on behalf of the Dallas police who then advised the couple that a wrongful surgery "was not a criminal matter". The Dallas County District Attorney’s office explained to the couple that a public case was not "worth their time".

The couple sought assistance from the state’s attorney general, the federal attorney general’s office, and even the Texas Governer’s office, but, according to the couple, "We were just laughed at, every step of the way."

The issue of Medicaid fraud also didn’t seem to concern state officials. Hardy and Harlan contacted the Medicaid fraud hotline to report Dr. Taylor for charging the surgery. "We were told that performing this surgery without consent does not constitute fraud. We can’t believe this doctor made money for performing a surgery we were against, and then the taxpayers had to pay for it," says Hardy.

Despite the out-of court settlement, Hardy and Harlan believe that justice wasn’t served. "Dr. Taylor has done this twice now." In 1991 he was publicly reprimanded by the Texas Medical Board for performing surgery without consent. "He’s still out there practicing like what he did was no problem. If the doctor had carved his initials in our son’s stomach, he would not be allowed to practice medicine. But since he cut off our son’s foreskin against our wishes, people think it is funny and all the doctor gets is a slap on the wrist. I wonder how many other families this has happened to, but they gave up the fight after being laughed at and receiving no support?"

J. Steven Svoboda, Executive Director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, says events like this are neither rare nor isolated.


11. "Contrary to Canadian law"

Infant Male Circumcision:
A Violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

by Arif Mohamed Bhimji, MD

Circumcision of male infants is a clear violation of the rights guaranteed to all persons by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, the practice contravenes human rights legislation on provincial and international levels.

It is a fundamental principle of international law, as well as the mark of every civilized community, that discrimination is unlawful. Interpretations of human rights law that recognize FGM but not MGM as violations infringe on equal protection principles enshrined in national and international law. Female circumcision is, rightly, a criminal offence in almost every country even when “religious duty” is claimed; there can be no justification for not extending the same protection to boys. All forms of sexual cutting of children are profoundly damaging, whether male or female. To suggest that only female circumcision be regarded as in breach of the various conventions on human rights denies the medical evidence as to the pain, risks and sexual dysfunction from infant male circumcision. It argues for the formalization of discrimination against these male children on the grounds of their sex, race and the religious beliefs of the family into which they are born. Human rights principles are absolute, not subject to balancing in the scales of international justice relative to other violations.

The presence of and tolerance for infant male circumcision in our societies harms us all. Male infants need our protection from unnecessary surgery. To contemplate a ban on non-ritual, non-therapeutic circumcision, while allowing ritual circumcision, would be a prohibited discrimination against a group of boys on the grounds of their parents’ religion. These infants will always have the choice to be circumcised later in life, if they so choose to do as a sign of their faith. At that point, at least, it is their own decision and not one that has been imposed irreversibly upon them.

Male genital mutilation (MGM), including circumcision, is much more of an issue in Canada than FGM, whose proponents and victims are found mostly abroad. For that reason, MGM deserves at least as much attention as FGM from Canadian authorities. It is difficult to conceive that the amputation of healthy, fully functional erogenous tissue without consent does not violate the most basic of human rights.

Canadians proudly point to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the primary instrument for protecting their rights. The evidence is clear: infant male circumcision for anything other than real medical necessity violates both the Charter and the Criminal Code. As Canadians we have an obligation to rectify this injustice.


The entire article, 103KB long, may be downloaded as a *.pdf file from HealthcareLaw to be read with eg Acrobat Reader.


13. Landmark case: suit against a "successful", parentally-consented infant circumcision. [Settled out of court]

Press release:
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child
2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 Fax/phone 510-595-5550

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2000
CONTACT: Marilyn Milos, RN, 1-415-488-9883

Attention: Health Editor

Man Sues for Being Circumcised as an Infant

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK An 18- year-old filed suit Tuesday in the US District Court, Eastern District of New York, against the physician that circumcised him as a newborn and the hospital where he was circumcised.

William Stowell
William Stowell
Plaintiff William G. Stowell, born on December 22, 1981 at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, NY, was circumcised the following day by his mother’s obstetrician, Frank P. Cariello, MD. Mr. Stowell recalls being at camp at the age of 14 and noticing that another boy had a foreskin. 'I wanted to know why he had one and I didn’t and, more importantly," says Stowell, “where mine was. Shortly afterwards I formed the opinion that the whole procedure and idea of circumcision were wrong. I came to believe I deserve compensation from the person who scarred and damaged me permanently, and from the hospital where this damage was allowed to occur."

According to J. Steven Svoboda, Executive Director, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, "This case highlights the travesty of infant circumcision, which seriously breaches the child’s right to bodily integrity and is incompatible with the doctor’s legal and ethical duties toward the child patient. Circumcising a child without medical necessity is criminal assault. All physicians and hospitals that currently circumcise males without medical justification would be wise to reconsider this practice."

This landmark case brings into question whether a physician can remove healthy, normal tissue from unconsenting minors for non-therapeutic reasons, and whether a parent can legally consent to a medically contraindicated surgery for a minor child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) first acknowledged that there was no medical justification for routine circumcision in 1971. Last year, the AAP reaffirmed that it does not recommend routine circumcision. The American Medical Association concurred this year, calling routine circumcision 'non-therapeutic'. No national or international medical organization recommends routine circumcision. The United States is the only country that continues to circumcise the majority of its newborns for non-religious reasons. As parents have become more educated about the surgery, the circumcision rate in the US, from data supplied by HCIA-Sachs, has fallen to 57%.

- X X X -

"Mr. Stowell is represented by John L. Juliano of East Northport, NY and David J. Llewellyn of Conyers, Georgia. Mr. Llewellyn regularly represents the victims of circumcision throughout the country." David Llewellyn, the plaintiff’s attorney, can be reached at 1-770-918-1911.

J. Steven Svoboda, Executive Director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, can be reached at 1-510-595-5550.

[The defendants settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.]


14. "He doesn't need this procedure"

Las Vegas Review Journal

Monday, January 15, 2001

Father fights to stop son's circumcision

Man's ex-wife plans procedure for 3-year-old boy on recommendation of doctor

By Carri Geer Thevenot

The father of a 3-year-old Las Vegas boy is seeking a court order to prevent his ex-wife from having the boy circumcised.

"It's my son. It's highly emotional, and I truly believe in my heart -- I have a clear mind that he doesn't need this procedure," said the boy's father, Henry Corvera.

Corvera, a native of Bolivia who lives in St. Louis, said his ex-wife, Laura Latimer, told him several months ago that the boy's doctor had recommended circumcision.

Latimer wanted to go ahead with the procedure, but Corvera objected. He said he decided to go to court after she refused to discuss the issue further.

"I believe she thinks she's doing the right thing, but I believe it's not medically necessary," Corvera said.

He talked about the matter at length last week after a closed-door hearing in Family Court Judge Bob Lueck's courtroom.

Latimer, who has primary physical custody of the couple's son, declined to be interviewed for this story. Latimer and Corvera have joint legal custody of the boy.

In a letter written in mid-November to both parties' attorneys, Lueck indicated he would order the circumcision. But after last week's hearing, the judge said he wanted to review more records before making a final decision.

Lueck's November letter was based on an independent examination performed by Dr. Sheldon Freedman, a Las Vegas urologist.

Freedman concluded that the child had a medical condition that would be best treated with circumcision, which involves the removal of all or part of the foreskin of a penis.

"I am very well aware of the controversy regarding circumcision, and I openly acknowledge that the foreskin does have function both in protection, lubrication and sensation," the urologist wrote in a letter to the judge. "In this case, however, the foreskin has a true medical disease, and in my opinion, this is best treated with circumcision."

Corvera questions those findings. He said he has medical experts of his own who have concluded that his son's penis is normal and needs no corrective surgery.

"You don't mutilate a body part just because," Corvera said.

He requested an evidentiary hearing -- at which experts on both sides of the case could testify and face cross-examination -- but Lueck denied the request.

Corvera said he and Latimer were married in 1992 in Rhode Island. Their son was born in August 1997 in Las Vegas, and they opted against circumcision.

"There was an argument at the time, but I imposed my view," Corvera said.

Corvera, 37, is not circumcised and said the procedure is not a common practice in his homeland "or, for that matter, in most of the world."

Statistics show that about 61 percent of male infants in the United States were circumcised in 1999.

"That procedure is culturally accepted here," Corvera said. "It's tradition."

Circumcisions in this country have dropped significantly since the 1960s as research has raised questions about the procedure's medical benefits.

"It is such a strange subject," Corvera said. "Nobody talks about it."

Corvera has studied the issue extensively and has accumulated a file full of related information.

He also has conversed with Jim Price, the father of a 3-year-old New Jersey boy who is fighting a similar battle with his estranged wife. Price has appeared on Howard Stern's radio talk show and urged Corvera to take his story to the press.

Corvera said he fears his child will suffer psychological damage from being circumcised at this age.

And because of the boy's age, Corvera said, he should be given general anesthesia. Corvera said surgery and anesthesia carry risks of physical injury or death.

In addition, Corvera said he has acquired information indicating circumcision diminishes a man's sexual pleasure. He said most American men don't discuss this possibility.

"Because they've been clipped, they don't know the difference," he said.

Corvera said both he and Latimer moved to St. Louis after the birth of their son, but they separated six months later, and Latimer returned to Las Vegas.

The couple were divorced in 1998, and Corvera said they never fought over custody.

"I thought she would be a good mother, and I won't take the child away from her by any means," he said.

Corvera said he flies to Las Vegas once a month to spend three days with his son. He also pays $775 a month for child support, $240 a month to his son's private preschool, and half of the boy's medical expenses.

"Nobody can accuse me of being a deadbeat father," Corvera said.

He estimated he has spent about $12,000 on legal fees to fight his ex-wife's plans to circumcise their son and that he would spend another $30,000 if Lueck allows an evidentiary hearing.

"I'm not crazy. I'm not happy about spending that kind of money, but he's my son," Corvera said.

He also vowed to sue any doctor who performs a circumcision on the boy and said he will encourage his son to do the same when he becomes an adult.

"I'm going to get in debt, but my son will know I fought for him," Corvera said.

18. $1.4 million settlement for botched circumcision

Date: 6/7/01 [7 June, 2001]

Case Style: Gordon v. University of California

Case Number: 99 AS 05222

Judge: Unknown

Court: Superior Court, Sacramento County, California

Plaintiff's Attorney: Martin L. Blake of Baum & Blake, San Francisco, California

Defendant's Attorney: Ronald Lamb of Rust, Armenis, Schwartz, Lamb & Bill, Sacramento, California

Description: Medical malpractice - Negligent performance of circumcision on a newborn baby whose penis was injured. Troy Gordon was born, jaundiced and hypoglycemic on January 19, 1994, at the University of California at Davis. The circumcision was performed by a resident and the Plaintiffs claimed that an excessive amount of foreskin was removed in the procedure. As a result, the child has a "buried penis".

The defense took the position that the condition created by the surgical error would correct itself during puberty.

Outcome: Plaintiffs' verdict for $1.4 million.

See also the news story based on this case.



Jurist vill förbjuda manlig omskärelse
Av Marianne Hedenbro
5 mars 2001
Lawyer wants to ban male circumcision
By Marianne Hedenbro
5 March 2001
Juristen Stefan Ivarsson anser att den lag som ska skydda pojkar från att skadas när de omskärs strider mot rättsliga principer. Lawyer Stefan Ivarsson believes the law intended to protect boys from botched circumcisions is contrary to legal principles.
Den svenska regeringen har nyligen beslutat om en lag som ska skydda pojkar från att skadas när de omskärs. Men lagen strider mot grundläggande rättsliga principer och kan leda till att läkare som omskär pojkar ställs inför rätta. - Sverige borde införa förbud mot manlig omskärelse precis som mot kvinnlig, säger Stefan Ivarsson, jurist och medlem i det internationella nätverket Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, en människorättsorganisation som står under FN:s beskydd. Den bildades i USA och har flest medlemmar i den anglosaxiska världen men även judiska och muslimska grupper ingår. The Swedish government recently decided on a law to protect boys from botched circumcisions. But the law contravenes basic legal principles and may result in prosecutions of doctors who circumcise boys. "Sweden should introduce legislation prohibiting male and female circumcision equally," says Stefan Ivarsson, a lawyer and a member of the international group Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, a human rights organization recognized by the UN. This group is based in the USA and most of its members are from the English- speaking world, though even Jews and Muslims are included.
- Vi arbetar mot både kvinnlig och manlig omskärelse. Men det är svårare att övertyga beslutsfattare om att även manlig omskärelse är en stympning, säger Stefan Ivarsson. Han har ända sedan utredningen om den nya omskärelselagen tillsattes försökt få gehör för sina åsikter hos tjänstemän och politiker. Hittills utan framgång. - Utredningen är dålig. Den tar ingen hänsyn till den debatt eller forskning som pågår om manlig omskärelse. Det är idag en utbredd uppfattning hos sakkunskapen att manlig omskärelse inte ger några medicinska fördelar. "We are opposed to both female and male circumcision. But it's harder to convince the drafters of the legislation that male circumcision is also a mutilation," says Stefan Ivarsson. Ever since the commission was appointed to draft the new circumcision law, he has been trying to gain the support of administrators and politicians. So far without success. "The commission is bad. It takes no account of the principles involved or of current research on male circumcision. The prevailing opinion among experts today is that male circumcision offers no medical advantage."
Tvärtom strider ingreppet mot den hippokratiska läkareden att aldrig skada. Manlig omskärelse förstör frisk vävnad, skadan kan inte repareras, den orsakar livslånga sexuella och psykologiska problem. - Det är en kränkning av barnets kroppsliga integritet, säger Stefan Ivarsson. Dessutom kräver själva ingreppet offer. Operationer är aldrig helt riskfria. Pojkar far illa och dör på grund av att de omskärs, också i Sverige, även när omskäraren inte gör något fel. För medicinskt onödiga ingrepp är detta oacceptabelt. Stefan Ivarsson är själv omskuren mot sin vilja. Pappan är engelsman och följde en lång tradition från sitt hemland. - Min egen erfarenhet är en drivkraft i arbetet mot manlig omskärelse och ett bra argument mot personer som anklagar mig för antisemitism. Men viktigast för mig är att manlig omskärelse är ett brott mot de mänskiga rättigheterna. Quite the contrary; the operation violates the Hippocratic Oath never to cause harm. Male circumcision destroys healthy tissue which can never be replaced, and causes lifelong sexual and psychological problems. "It's a violation of a child's bodily integrity," says Stefan Ivarsson. "Besides, the operation itself requires a subject (victim?). Operations are never completely risk-free. Things go wrong and boys die as a result of circumcision, even in Sweden and even when the operation is properly performed. Such an outcome is unacceptable for an unnecessary medical intervention." Stefan Ivarsson himself was circumcised against his will. His father was English and was following a long British tradition. "My own experience motivates me to work against circumcision and serves as a strong argument against those who accuse me of antisemitism. But the most important consideration for me is that male circumcision is a human rights violation."
Stefan Ivarsson anser att argumenten mot den nya svenska omskärelselagen är starka. Han lutar sig mot FN:s deklaration om de mänskliga rättigheter, FN:s barnkonvention, Europakonventionen om de mänskiga rättigheterna, den svenska lagen mot kvinnlig könsstympning, diskrimineringslagen och grundlagen. Ingen får utöva en frihet så att den hindrar en annan människas rättigheter. Rätten till kroppslig integritet är således starkare än religionsfrihet. Barnkonventionen slår fast att barnet är en egen individ med samma rättigheter som andra. - När regeringen i den svenska lagtexten försvarar rätten till religionsfrihet är det föräldrarnas, inte barnets religionsfrihet man talar om. Man kan inte utgå från att barn följer i sina föräldrars fotspår in i religion, lika lite som i politik eller yrke. Stefan Ivarsson believes that the arguments against the new Swedish circumcision law are strong. He relies on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Swedish law against FGM, and laws and principles prohibiting discrimination. No one can exercise a right in such a way that it violates someone else's rights. Thus the right to bodily integrity takes precedence over religious freedom. The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that a child is a separate person with the same rights as other persons. When the government in the text of the law defends the right to religious freedom, they are talking about the parents' right to religious freedom, not that of the child. We can't assume that a child will follow in the footsteps of his parents with respect to religious affiliation, any more than he will follow their politics or occupation.
Religiös uppfostran ger inte föräldrar rätt att märka sina barn med sin egen religiösa övertygelse, kommenterar Stefan Ivarsson. Han påminner om att Jehovas vittnen inte får lov att vägra sina barn bodtransfusioner, som deras religion förbjuder. Om de vägrar har samhället rätt att tillfälligt ta över vårdnaden om barnet. Samma sak gäller flickor som hotas att könsstympas. A religious upbringing does not give parents the right to mark their children with their own religious convictions, comments Stefan Ivarsson. He reminds us that Jehovah's Witnesses cannot get permission to deny their children blood transfusions, even though transfusions are prohibited by their religion. In case of refusal, society has the right to take temporary custody of the child. The same thing applies to girls at risk for FGM.
Stefan Ivarsson hävdar att samma skäl som regeringen har för att se kvinnlig könsstympning som ett brott - ett rituellt ingrepp som förstör väsentliga kroppsdelar - också måste gälla manlig omskärelse/stympning. Motsatsen skulle innebära diskriminering på grund av kön, dessutom på grund av födsel och religion. - När man inför en lag som skyddar flickors kroppsliga integritet kan man inte utesluta pojkar. Alla barn oavsett kön, religion, ras, hudfärg, födsel etc har rätt till samma lagliga skydd. Stefan Ivarsson maintains that the same reasoning the government uses to criminalize FGM-ritual practice that destroys an essential body part-must also be applied to male circumcision/mutilation. The differential treatment should be regarded as discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as on grounds of (accident of) birth and religion. "When we pass a law protecting the physical integrity of girls we can't exclude boys. All children regardless of sex, religion, race, skin colour, or any other accident of birth have the same right to legal protection."
Pojkar och flickor föds med sina könsdelar intakta. Det är inte deras skyldighet att bevisa sin rätt att få förbli oomskurna. Bevisbördan ligger på den som vill göra ingreppet och barnet måste, hävdar Stefan Ivarsson, skyddas tills det bevisats att ingreppet är ofarligt och lagligt. Han anser inte att Sverige kan tillåta manlig omskärelse utan att kränka grundläggande rättsprinciper och mänskliga rättigheter. - Med de lagar vi har är det redan förbjudet att omskära pojkar och flickor i Sverige och tid att börja fundera på offren, säger Stefan Ivarsson. Han tänker själv pröva den lagstiftning han hänvisar till genom att stämma staten för sin egen omskärelse på Karolinska sjukhuset 1968. Boys and girls are born with intact sex organs. They have no need to prove that they should remain uncircumcised. The burden of proof is on those who want to perform the operation, and children must, says Stefan Ivarsson, be protected until circumcision is shown to be harmless and legal. He doesn't think Sweden can allow male circumcision without violating basic legal principles and human rights. "The current law in Sweden already prohibits circumcision of boys and girls, and it's time to start thinking about the victims," says Stefan Ivarsson. He himself intends to test the legal provisions he refers to by suing the government for his own circumcision at the Karolinska hospital in 1968.


21. $80,000 for lack of consent

Patriot Ledger
January 05, 2001

$80,000 settlement to circumcised boy

The Patriot Ledger

Quincy Medical Center and an obstetrician have agreed to pay more than $80,000 to a boy who was circumcised and whose parents say the procedure was carried out against their wishes.

The parents told the hospital in August 1997 that they did not want their son circumcised, according to a malpractice suit filed by the parents. Nevertheless, Dr. Sandra Chenkin performed the procedure the day after he was born, court papers said.

Medical insurance experts said the case was unusual because it was based on lack of consent rather than negligence, the usual grounds for a malpractice claim.

There were no complications from the surgery, in which a doctor removes a sheath of skin covering the tip [no, the glans, the foreskin is the tip] of the penis.

Quincy Medical Center spokeswoman Karen Schwartzman said the incident occurred because a hospital policy requiring written consent for circumcisions “was not adhered to.”

Parents were supposed to be asked to sign [...but they should be asked whether they would sign...] a consent form after childbirth for the circumcision procedure, “along with a number of other forms that get filled out at the same time,” Schwartzman said.

In this case, “regrettably the consent form was not filled out,” she said. [No, what is regrettable is that the non-signing was overlooked and the boy was circumcised.]

Schwartzman said she had no information about conversations between the parents and the medical center before the birth. [This is irrelevant since the form was not signed.]

“Medical errors happen, and all too frequently,” she said. “Quincy Medical Center is not immune, but it is a problem at all hospitals.”

Schwartzman added patients should judge a hospital by its “whole picture” rather than “one incident two and a half years ago.”

The hospital closed its maternity unit in November 1998 because of financial reasons.

Chenkin practices in Brockton. Her lawyer did not return telephone calls.

Papers filed at Norfolk Superior Court contain the names of the parents and child. The Patriot Ledger is not publishing the names to protect the family’s privacy.

The case was settled Aug. 30, a little more than one month after the parents sued. The parents and their lawyer agreed to keep the terms of the settlement secret, not disclosing where the case had been filed and who had been sued. The Patriot Ledger obtained the court papers independently. The lawyer for the parents and child said he could not comment because of the settlement agreement.

Under terms of the settlement, the parents received $14,418 in August and their lawyer was paid $20,000. The child will collect four annual payments of $20,588 starting on his 18th birthday, for a total of $82,352, the agreement said.

The payments to parents, child and attorney total $116,770. However, Chenkin’s insurer, which paid the settlement, laid out only $60,000 in cash: the immediate payments to the parents and their lawyer, plus a $25,352 annuity to cover the future payments, the court papers said.

Until about 10 years ago, circumcision was considered a routine procedure for newborn boys and few parents or doctors questioned it.

Muslims and Jews practice circumcision as part of their religions. The practice has gone beyond religious boundaries to become almost universal [a gross exaggeration] in the United States. The parents who sued Quincy Medical Center claimed circumcision was against their religious beliefs. ["Claimed"? As if they didn't know what their own religious beliefs are?]

In recent years, evidence has mounted that circumcision is unnecessary and can present risks, like any surgery.

In March 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics withdrew its longtime support for the procedure, saying the benefits were not sufficient enough [sic] to justify a recommendation.

The new guidelines said parents should decide, and laid out the benefits and risks.

Malpractice lawyers and insurers said they didn’t know of a case similar to the Quincy Medical Center suit.

The suit was unusual because it hinged on lack of consent, not negligence by the doctor or hospital, said Boston malpractice lawyer David White-Lief. [It was negligent of the hospital to proceed without consent.]

Under malpractice theory, surgery without consent is considered the same as an assault on the patient, White-Lief said.

“Any surgical procedure requires informed consent,” he said.

At least five area hospitals – Brockton Hospital, South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Jordan Hospital in Plymouth and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – require written consent before performing a circumcision, officials said. [None requires written consent from the patient....]

Dr. Robert Nelson, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and head of the bioethics committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said hospital policies may vary but some form of consent is necessary before performing circumcision.

Even if hospitals don’t use a form, doctors should get consent verbally and document it, Nelson said.

A spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the organization’s guidelines call for doctors to obtain consent but don’t specify that it be written.



22. $750,000 for the tip of the glans

From the May 19, 2003 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Verdicts & Settlements

Tip Of Penis Amputated During Circumcision
Doctor Admits Mistake; Defense Later Questions Design Of Clamp Used

$725,000 Settlement

In June 1997, a baby boy was born to the plaintiffs. According to all involved, the mother and minor plaintiff were healthy and in satisfactory condition following the birth. The morning after the birth, the minor plaintiff was taken from the mother to be circumcised. The father did not accompany the minor plaintiff. Approximately one hour later, the defendant doctor entered the plaintiff parents' room and notified them that a small section at the tip of the infant's glans penis had been inadvertently excised.

The defendant doctor further informed them that a surgeon was on the way to perform microsurgery to reattach the amputated section. The defendant doctor reportedly concluded by stating: "I wish I could blame the clamp, but I can't. It was my fault."

The operative note stemming from the reattachment stated that only a tiny section of glans penis had been amputated during the circumcision, that no damage had been done to the child's urethra, and that full recovery was expected.

Over the next two years, the minor plaintiff had a remarkable healing result. Follow-up appointments with different doctors, one of whom was a noted specialist from Children's Hospital in Boston, confirmed that the minor plaintiff would not likely suffer any permanent injury as a result of the circumcision mishap [...only as a result of the circumcision]. There were, however, slight cosmetic deficits at the tip of the minor plaintiff's penis, which were termed "skin tags." These skin tags were removed by laser surgery and did not reappear.

The plaintiff's expert agreed that there was only a slight cosmetic deficit and that the urethra remained intact. He also agreed that the child would not suffer any decreased sensation due to the original insult [...only due to the circumcision]. He added that he could not say for certain that the plaintiff would grow to have full sensation at the tip of his penis.

As discovery progressed, the defense began to question the suitability of the Mogen clamp used in the process. Despite the defendant doctor's admission that the incident was his fault, the defense persisted with claims that the Mogen clamp had a design defect, which could allow for a portion of the glans penis to become trapped during the clamping process and inadvertently excised. [This is an acknowledged fault of the Mogen(TM) clamp]

The plaintiffs did extensive research into the different implements used for circumcision, and opined that the doctor failed to make certain that only foreskin remained exposed after the clamp had been applied. Ultimately, the case was settled with a structured settlement, which will yield the child in excess of $750,000.

Type of action: Medical Malpractice
Injuries alleged: Section of glans penis amputated
Name of case: Withheld
Court/case #: Withheld
Tried before judge or jury: N/A (settled)
Special damages: $3,950
Amount of settlement: $725,000
Date: January 2003
Attorney: Darin M. Colucci, Colucci, Colucci & Marcus, Milton

[If the tip of the glans is worth $750,000, how much will the whole foreskins be worth when the class action suits begin? This case illustrates how those who have a glans and no foreskin overvalue the one and undervalue the other. An excellent example of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.]


24. Penis lacerated (more than usually), clamp blamed

From http://www.wintrials.com/FSL5CS/Custom/TOCVerdictsSettlements.asp

Product liability

John Doe v. Doe Distribution: Plaintiff was a newborn who was circumcised at the hospital. Unfortunately, the pediatrician performing the procedure lacerated the organ with serious complications. The case was brought to trial against the clamp product distributor for manufacturing and design defects. At the trial, the jury found that defects in the clamp contributed to the injury. The jury awarded damages in excess of $1.5 million, which may be the largest recovery for this type of injury reported.


28. German jurist declares circumcision "injury"

May, 2008

Circumcision of boys is bodily injury

[Anyone w]ho performs a circumcision on a minor boy without medical indication – but for hygienic, religious or aesthetic reasons – commits an offence against §223 StGB (bodily injury). This is the view that Dr. Holm Putzke (Ruhr-University Bochum) takes in his article "Rechtliche Grenzen der Zirkumzision bei Minderjährigen – Legal boundaries of circumcision of minors" in the journal Medizinrecht (Vol. 26, Issue 5, May 2008, 268-273).


29. Ruling that a 14-year-old may refuse to be circumcised


In the Matter of the Marriage of:

CASE NO: 98-2318-03(8)


THIS MATTER came before the Court for hearing on April 22, 2009, pursuant to the remand Instructions from the Oregon Supreme Court to resolve the factual issue of whether the Child agrees to or objects to the circumcision that would be required to be performed on him as part of his conversion to Judaism. The Supreme Court further instructed that if the trial court found that the Child opposed the circumcision, it must then determine whether the Child's opposition to the circumcision will affect Petitioner's ability to properly care for him. If necessary, the trial court could then determine whether it is in the Child's best interests for the existing custody arrangement to remain in place, whether conditions should be imposed contingent on Petitioner's continued custody of the Child, or whether custody should be changed from Petitioner to Respondent.

The Child was interviewed in camera regarding his position regarding the circumdslon and religious conversion. Trie Court also received testimony from Petitioner James Boldt

Having considered the Child's in camera interview, Petitioner's testimony, the arguments made by the attorneys, the memoranda of law submitted by the parties, the relevant statutory provisions, the applicable caselaw, and otherwise being familiar with the issues, the Court makes the following findings:

(1) The Child clearly has expressed to the Court that he does not wish to be circumcised. Further, the Child does not wish to convert to Judaism.

(2) The Child discussed in depth his fear of returning to Petitioner's custody once Petitioner became aware of his position regarding the circumcision and religious conversion. Further, the Child explained to the Court that he was so concerned about what Petitioner's reaction would be that he was afraid to tell Petitioner his true feelings about the circumcision and conversion,

(3) The Child pleaded with the Court not tp send him back to Petitioner's custody during his in camera interview. Further, the Child stated that it was his desire to live with Respondent. It was clearly apparent that the Child was suffering from significant emotional anguish regarding his current living situation with Petitioner.

(4) Although Petitioner testified that he would not force the Child to be circumcised or to convert to Judaism against the Child's wishes, the Court has concerns about the ongoing emotional and/or psychological effect that the Child's decision will have on the parent-child relationship and the Petitioner's ability to properly care for the Child.

(5) The Court Is satisfied that the Respondent has met her burden of demonstrating to the Court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances relating to the capability of one or both parents to care for the Child. The events (Child's position regarding the circumcision and conversion; Child's fear of returning to Petitioner's care; Child's fear of being truthful with Petitioner regarding his position as to the circumcision and conversion; Child's desire to live with Respondent; and Child's obvious emotional anguish over his living situation) that precipitated the substantial change fn circumstances were unanticipated and have arisen since the last Court order of October 9, 2002.

Based on the foregoing, it is the Order of the Court that this matter be set for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether it is in the Child's best interests for the existing custody arrangement to remain in place, whether conditions should be Imposed contingent on Petitioner's continued custody of the Child, or whether custody should be changed from Petitioner to Respondent.

Further, it is the Order of the Court that an independent Child Custody Evaluator be appointed in this case pursuant to ORS 107.425. Attorneys for Petitioner, Respondent, and the Child may provide the Court with a list of at least three (3) proposed evaluators to the Court within 14 (fourteen) calendar days from the date of this Order. The Court will then review the proposed evaluators and make a selection from the parties' submissions.

Dated: June 2 2009

Lisa C. Greif
Circuit Court Judge
C: Tracy McGovern, attorney for petitioner
Jennifer Perez, attorney for respondent
Bradley Lechman-Su, attorney for child


But this all raises the question, if he may refuse at 14, why not earlier, especially since an earlier circumcision would have taken away his choice at 14?

News story


30. Genital Mutilation Bill, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Genital Mutilation Bill set down for hearing March 2, 2010

The Bill itself
(This is just a Female Genital Mutilation Bill with references to the corresponding male parts added.

Flowchart of the Bill's progress


31. Federal Law to derestrict (male) circumcision

Girls' cutting prohibited, boys' enshrined by HR2400

HR2400 mercifully lapsed, but California's AB768 is similar:

"No city, county, or city and county ordinance, regulation, or administrative action shall prohibit or restrict the practice of male circumcision, or the exercise of a parent's authority to have a child circumcised."

Now circumcision in California needs only one consenting parent, a boy and a boxcutter. You can circumcise your son with impunity because he failed his driving test - or authorize the driving instructor or tester to carry it out.


32. Lawyers specialising in circumcision cases

There are several lawyers in the USA who spend much of their energy pursuing cases involving circumcision (botched circumcisions, protecting boys from unconsented circumcisions, and also premature forcible retraction of intact boys), and they will sometimes work pro bono (free, for the public good). They are

  • Zenas Baer in Hawley, Minnesota (zbaer [at] zbaer.com)
  • John Geisheker in Seattle (docdirector.geisheker [at] gmail.com)
  • David Llewellyn in Atlanta (llewhm [at] bellsouth.net)
  • Steven Svoboda in Berkeley, California (arc [at] post.harvard.edu) runs Attorneys for the Rights of the Child



33. Infant male genital cutting is already illegal:

"One Green Bottle", London Queen's Counsel James Chegwidden's speech at the Healthcare and Secularism conference in 2018, about how non-therapeutic infant circumcision is in breach of national and international law.

James Chegwidden QC
James Chegwidden QC

34.  Germany - from ethical/legal to political

German Law on Circumcision and its Debate: How an Ethical and Legal Issue Turned Political

Diana Aurenque

University of Tubingen - Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine

Urban Wiesing

Universität Tübingen - Institut für Ethik und Geschichte der Medizin

March 2015

Bioethics, Vol. 29, Issue 3, pp. 203-210, 2015

The article aims to illuminate the recent debate in Germany about the legitimacy of circumcision for religious reasons. The aim is both to evaluate the new German law allowing religious circumcision, and to outline the resulting conflict between the surrounding ethical and legal issues. We first elucidate the diversity of legal and medical views on religious circumcision in Germany. Next we examine to what extent invasive and irreversible physical interventions on infant boys unable to given their consent should be carried out for non‐medical reasons. To this end, the potential benefits and harms of circumcision for non‐medical reasons are compared. We argue that circumcision does not provide any benefits for the ‘child as a child’ and poses only risks to boys. We then set out to clarify and analyse political (rather than ethical) justifications of the new circumcision law. We demonstrate through this analysis how the circumcision debate in Germany has been transformed from a legal and ethical problem into a political issue, due at least in part to Germany's unique historical context. Although such a particular political sensibility is entirely comprehensible, it raises particular problems when it comes to framing and responding to medical ethical issues – as in the case of religious circumcision.

35. Circumcision is unethical and unlawful

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics
June 2016

Circumcision Is Unethical and Unlawful

J. Steven Svoboda, Peter W. Adler, Robert S. Van Howe


The foreskin is a complex structure that protects and moisturizes the head of the penis, and, being the most densely innervated and sensitive portion of the penis, is essential to providing the complete sexual response. Circumcision—the removal of this structure—is non-therapeutic, painful, irreversible surgery that also risks serious physical injury, psychological sequelae, and death. Men rarely volunteer for it, and increasingly circumcised men are expressing their resentment about it.

Circumcision is usually performed for religious, cultural and personal reasons. Early claims about its medical benefits have been proven false. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have made many scientifically untenable claims promoting circumcision that run counter to the consensus of Western medical organizations.

Circumcision violates the cardinal principles of medical ethics, to respect autonomy (self-determination), to do good, to do no harm, and to be just. Without a clear medical indication, circumcision must be deferred until the child can provide his own fully informed consent.

In 2012, a German court held that circumcision constitutes criminal assault. Under existing United States law and international human rights declarations as well, circumcision already violates boys› absolute rights to equal protection, bodily integrity, autonomy, and freedom to choose their own religion. A physician has a legal duty to protect children from unnecessary interventions. Physicians who obtain parental permission through spurious claims or omissions, or rely on the American Academy of Pediatrics' position, also risk liability for misleading parents about circumcision.

J Law Med Ethics vol. 44 no. 2 263-282

39. Infant male genital cutting is fraudulent

Vol. 30:45 pp 45-107


Peter W. Adler, Robert Van Howe, Travis Wisdom & Felix Daase

This Article suggests that non-therapeutic male circumcision or male genital cutting (MGC), the irreversible removal of the foreskin from the penises of healthy boys, is not only unlawful in the United States but also fraudulent. As a German court held in 2012 before its ruling was effectively overturned by a special statute under political pressure, circumcision for religious or non-medical reasons is harmful, violates the child’s rights to bodily integrity and self-determination (which supersedes competing parental rights), and constitutes criminal assault. MGC also violates the child’s rights under U.S. law, and it constitutes a battery, a tort and a crime, and statutory child abuse. Building upon a 2016 case in the United Kingdom, we make the novel suggestion that when performed by a physician, MGC is a breach of trust or fiduciary duty, and hence constructive fraud, where courts impute fraud even if intent to defraud is absent. We reprise and build upon the argument that it is unlawful and Medicaid fraud for physicians and hospitals to bill Medicaid for unnecessary genital surgery. Finally, we suggest that MGC constitutes intentional fraud by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and most physicians who perform circumcisions in the United States. They have long portrayed MGC as medicine when it is violence, and as a parental right when males have the right to keep their penile foreskin, and physicians are not allowed to take orders from parents to perform unnecessary genital surgery on children. Various aspects of potential litigation would be favorable to the plaintiffs. Hence, we conclude that MGC exposes physicians, hospitals, and the AAP to large and possibly uninsured liability.

The whole article (pdf)


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