Thursday, February 22, 2007

Circumcision - One Healthy Cut

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we took a Lamaze class. It so happened that we ended up in a class with three other couples, two of whom we already knew. During a session, we talked about what to expect after the baby was born; a discussion that touched on circumcision.

All of a sudden, one of the couples that we knew began to have a nasty fight over whether their baby, if a boy, would be circumcised. The husband was adamant he would be, the wife equally as adamant he wouldn't. It got so bad, the rest of us suggested they just better have a girl to avoid a further argument. They did end up having a girl...and a few years later, a divorce. I guess circumcision was just one of a number of things they couldn't agree on.

For us, when we had a boy, the question of circumcision was a no-brainer. I may not be a religious Jew but I'm enough of one to follow that tradition, rabbi and all. It never occurred to me not to have my sons circumcised and my wife was all for it, too. When the procedure was done, to be quite honest, she shed more tears watching than either of our boys did experiencing it.

Male circumcision has received a lot of negative press over the past few years. A number of groups have claimed that it traumatizes boys for life and that it is equivalent to mutilation and female circumcision. Ridiculous arguments; at best it can be claimed that male circumcision is unnecessary.

As it turns out, even that argument may have been quashed with the news today that uncircumcised men are 50-60 per cent more likely to contract the HIV virus than circumcised men are. That announcement is being hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against AIDS, particularly in poorer nations where sexual activity is not met with the same precautions as it is in the developed world. The reason, it appears, is that the cells in the tissue that make up the foreskin are very vulnerable to the infection.

It has long been suggested that circumcised men were less likely to suffer from a number of infectious diseases and there has been established links between circumcision and a reduced chance of penile cancers. To me, tradition and religion aside, that makes circumcision more like an inoculation than mutilation.

Of course, convincing people, in places where superstition and religious dogma run rampant, that circumcision will be healthy for their children is another matter, altogether. Even efforts to wipe out diseases like smallpox and polio in those nations has been difficult thanks to hideous propaganda against Western efforts.

Hopefully, we can at least convince the naysayers in our society.


BaconEating AtheistJew said...

You missed this negative press.

Personally, I have no recollection of my circuscision and to my knowledge never did. If it made my parents and immediate family feel justified at the time, I don't have a problem with it.

Beanie's Appa said...

Even with this news circumcision is at best unnecessary. Ignoring the fact that circumcised men can still get HIV, the third world doesn't have the medical facilities necessary to perform this surgery on every man without complications. If we can't trust them to learn about safe sex and use charity distributed condoms, why would we trust them to clean the knife between circumcisions, or have antiseptics, antibiotics on hand to thwart infection of the surgical wound?

southfield_2001 said...

beaj - doesn't really seem to have established a link between one and the other. I suppose it could happen, just as one in a million babies suffers a horrific allergic reaction to inoculation.
I don't remember being circumcised and I have no qualms about having a bris for both my sons. Not being much more religious than you are, I will say that it had a real impact on me in the sense of tying into my history.
On a side note, my wife insists women prefer helmetless soldiers.

beanie - as I noted in my post, it may be difficult to offer widespread circumcision in developing countries. That, however, does not discount the very real findings of medical studies.
I believe you have the equation backwards. You say it is 'at best' unnecessary. I believe it is 'at worst' unnecessary. At best, it offers health benefits and not solely restricted to HIV.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I believe I read the total in Britain was 1 in 90,000 babies die after circumcision.
Penile cancers of the uncut are very high though, but it comes later in life.
I agree, that if the stats are true about the HIV and Aids, you can't trust the third world to use condoms, hell, you can't trust a 16 year old in the West to use a condom.