Should you have your boy circumcised?

By on October 10, 2016

What do insanity, syphilis, and epilepsy have in common? They are all caused by masturbation, or so it was believed in Britain and the US in the late 19th century.  And the cure?  Circumcision.  When this notion was seen for the nonsense it was, a new idea replaced it: the germ theory of disease.  At least this was on the right lines for syphilis, tuberculosis and other infections.  And where were these dangerous germs thought to be lurking? Well, in ‘dirty’ parts of the body, such as around the gums of decayed teeth, in the tonsils and colon (large bowel), and – you guessed it – under the foreskin. Various disorders thought to be caused by germs were actually referred to as the ‘filth diseases’. The recommended cure? Removal of the offending parts: teeth, tonsils, colon, and – once again – the poor foreskin.  

Subsequently, such drastic treatments – except for circumcision – were discarded as unsupportable, but the proponents of circumcision were not going to be easily discouraged. In the 1950s the idea was put about that cervical cancer is more common in the wives of uncircumcised men and, more recently, that there is an increased risk of urinary tract infections in uncircumcised boys. The former claim has since been debunked, and the latter does not stand up to critical examination. The latest assertion is that circumcision prevents HIV infection. If that is the case, how is it that the US, with the highest rate of circumcision in the developed world, also has one of the highest incidences of HIV infection?

Even if the alleged medical benefits are true, only a minute proportion of boys and men would benefit.  Is it justifiable to subject new-born boys to having part of their body cut off to prevent future harm in a tiny minority?

Newborn circumcision is extremely painful.  It interferes with mother-baby bonding and can have long term physical, psychological, and sexual adverse effects.  The foreskin is the most erotogenic (pleasure giving) part of the penis and circumcision removes most or all of this structure.  Many circumcised men come to  resent that a normal, healthy, functioning part of their body was cut off without their consent, and increasing numbers are now speaking out about the harm they believe was done to them.

Older parents may be familiar with the late great Benjamin Spock, the doyen of paediatricians, whose ‘Baby and Child Care’ ran to many editions. Although originally an advocate of circumcision, he was not afraid to admit he had been wrong and towards the end of his life said: ‘If I had the good fortune to have another son I would leave his little penis alone.’

About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed.
Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters:
He will be available from another address for:
smoking cessation
circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099