Nurses and circumcision

Every nurse who has seen a circumcision has a story to tell. Here, one nurse tells hers.

In 1985, Nurse Marilyn Milos was fired for advising parents against circumcision. She founded NOCIRC (the National Organisation of Circumision Information Resource Centers) and has been working for genital integrity ever since.

Marilyn Fayre Milos
Marilyn Fayre Milos

In 1992, more than 20 nurses of St Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, NM, refused to perform any more circumcisions and in June 1995, two of them, Mary Conant and Betty Katz Sperlich, founded Nurses for the Rights of the Child. See what the nurses of St Vincent say at YouTube.

Mary Conant
Mary Conant
Betty Katz Sperlich
Betty Katz Sperlich

Betty Katz Sperlich, Mary Conant and Frederick Hodges have written an article about the nurses' campaign in Revolution, The Journal of Nurse Empowerment (Spring 1996: 86-89) "R.N. Conscientious Objectors to Infant Circumcision: A Model for Nurse Empowerment".

This page arose from a message on the Baby Center message board on May 22, 2003 from "boymaker":

Had quite a conversation last night with an ob nurse and another mother on my sons baseball team. ... The topic of "procedures" after birth came up and how violent things pattern the brain. The ob nurse had quite a few things to say about hospital policy and what they are advised to tell parents after a circ. They are not allowed at any time to say "poor baby" after a circ. Not in front of the dr's or parents. They are not allowed to make the parents or dr's feel responsible for the pain an infant male must endure. They are told when they bring the baby back to his mother to say either "What a good baby. He didn't make a peep." Or "What an angel. He slept the whole time.You have a very happy baby on your hands." They think this will make an uncomfortable situation better. I asked if she has ever seen a baby actually sleep through a circ. She looked at me as though I was crazy. "Of course not." Have you ever seen a baby not cry at all? "No."

She had also seen numerous "bad" circs over the years and wonders how they turned out.Sometimes at the first diaper change afterward the mothers are very distraught at what they see. It's obvious it's not a little snip. And in the cases of a botched job they'll ask "Is it supposed to look like this?" In which [case] she is to respond "Oh everything looks fine. It will heal up in a day or two." Even though she knows it is not fine.

I was shocked! Now I know why people come on this board and say "You are crazy. My son didn't even cry."

By the way her son is NOT circ'd.

How is this happening? No wonder Marilyn Milos got fired for telling her patients the TRUTH. No wonder the nurses in Santa Fe had to take legal action to become conscientous objectors to not attend circ. How can this still be happening? It makes me mistrust the medical field even more than before. How do we ever know what is right for our children if we don't dig up the facts ourselves?

The rest of this thread is also interesting.

So what can nurses do?

Practicing nurses may be employed in a wide variety of environments different from St. Vincent Hospital. They could be in a large medical centre complex, a small town hospital, a multi-physician clinic, or a single doctor's office. They might or might not have group support or a union. They may want to do something, but have no idea where to start, or what options might be available to them.

But regardless of what their particular employment situation is, there are a number of things they can do on their own to combat circumcision.

Mary Conant writes:

One thing we suggest for working nurses is to present an in-service or workshop to educate their colleagues and managers. It can often be presented as an "ohmigod, guess what I just learned" type of thing that draws people in, rather than polarizing them. This serves to make the nurse who has awakened to the harm of circumcision feel less helpless because he/she is actively doing something to improve the situation, and it also flushes out allies that she may not be aware of. Day-to-day survival in an atmosphere where torture and mutilation occur is debilitating - especially when you think you are all alone. We urge the person to do SOMETHING rather than be a victim of the institutional monolith. We try to help [the] individual figure out what that something is.

This is just a sample list - a short seed-list of ideas, rather than comprehensive:


Nurses' Associations can make a public stand:

Halt routine circumcisions, nurses urge

By Rattan Mall
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, British Columbia
April 10, 1995

The routine circumcision of male babies was condemned by the province's registered nurses at their annual convention in Vancouver.

The preamble of a resolution passed by a majority of nurses said male circumcision is a procedure without demonstrable medical benefits in the vast majority of cases. The procedure is also not recommended by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

The nurses also agreed Friday that routine circumcision has numerous complications that are rarely communicated to parents, and that most medical authorities worldwide believe newborn males have a right to remain intact except in rare instances.

And they believe nurses have a role to play in educating parents about the perils of circumcision.

The resolution was introduced at the convention by the New Westminster chapter of the Registered Nurses' Association of B.C. Before being passed, it was amended to include both sexes. The phrase 'routine infant male circumcision' was replaced with 'non-therapeutic circumcision."

"It's circumcision of all forms on all sexes and so it makes it quite open,'' Iva Phillips, a registered nurse from Victoria, said Sunday. "And what it emphasizes is the role of the nurses and the association in raising awareness regarding this procedure."


For Student nurses or those still in med school:

The sample list above could be expanded with other suggestions which individual nurses, or nursing groups, could refer to for ideas.

- thanks to Leo4084

A neonate has only 100 ml of blood per kilo, not even one pint. Loss of even 80ml, 2 fl oz, can kill an infant by hypovolemic shock in a few minutes, the blood being easily absorbable into, and hard to detect in, a disposable diaper. Not many parents carry hemostats. Outpatient circumcisions without observation for hemorrhage, the commonest circumcision complication, are a disgrace for that fact alone.

- Thanks to John Geisheker


And if you can't stay and fight...

The day I withdrew from "Nursing" School

I want to share with all of you an event that drew me into intactivism...

Back in 1996, I began an OB/GYN hospital clinical as a student nurse. One day, I was enlisted to attend a 'routine circumcision.' I did not realize how much that event would shatter the very foundation of a career choice made in ignorance. I appeared in the doorway of the circ room and saw the little newborn boy to whom I was 'assigned' for the day. 20 years old and not having kids of my own, I did not anticipate the lurching sensation that gripped my heart. Laying strapped down to a table, so small and new....pure and innocent...trusting...all alone...no defenses..., I walked toward the baby and wanted to grab him off the table and shelter him..to tell him that nobody would hurt him..

In walked the doctor...loud..obnoxious..joking with his assistant...as if he was about to perform a 10 minute oil change..not once did he talk to this little baby. Rather, he reached for his cold metal instruments..and then reached out for his object of mutilation...this sweet newborn's perfect unharmed penis. As I recall the screams of pain and terror.. his small lungs barely able to keep up with the cries..I turned in horror as I saw the doctor forcefully pull his foreskin around a metal object. Then came the knife..cut...cut..cut..

I stood next to the baby and said..you're almost done sweety..almost done...

There..done. Then came the words..as that son-of-a-bitch dangled the foreskin in midair.."anybody care to go fishing?"

My tongue lodged in my throat..I felt like I was about to vomit. I restrained myself..and my duty was to then take the infant back to the nursery for 'observation.' Here is where I realized I couldn't do it. I could not be a part of such a cold, sterile, out-of-touch medical model...Rather than observing, I cradled the infant...I held him and whispered comforting words as if he were my own...I'll never forget those new little eyes watch me as if in a haze...he knew I cared about him...he knew he was safe in my arms..he knew that I was going to take him to his mommy...but, deep in his little heart, at some level, I know he wondered where his mommy was.....while he lay there mutilated in what was supposed to be a safe and welcoming environment. I made a note in the chart and then caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror...my chest and face had broken out in purple splotches. My next thought? I can't do this...I refuse to do this...this is NOT for me. I took the baby to his mother..who was complaining about 'some pain' she was experiencing...I never addressed her pain because I left to go to my locker..I grabbed my belongings..and hoped that my rejection of this 'medical system' could serve as some type of redemption for the violation of that newborn that I cradled in my arms that day. The next day, I withdrew from nursing school...and never looked back.

- thanks to Nicole

Feedback from nurses about this page is especially welcome.

Another article, in Satya magazine, about nurses and circumcision.

Related pages:

Back to the Intactivism index page.