Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cut Versus Uncut

The decision by a parent to have circumcision performed on a male child is now entering the legal realm as noticed by the Indiana Law Blog. The Chicago Tribune reports that a mother has been ordered by a Cook County judge not to circumcise her 8-year old son until the court can hear arguments from the child's father, who opposes the circumcision, to determine what's in the boy's best interests.

The mother wants the circumcision because two doctors have recommended the procedure to prevent recurrent infections. Her husband thinks the procedure is an "unnecessary amputation" that could cause his son physical and emotional harm.

The father's concerns seems to be well taken given the age of the child. The procedure, as the Tribune article points out, is traditionally performed before a newborn leaves the hospital, or soon thereafter at a religious ceremony in the case of Jewish tradition. Circumcision is believed to be much more painful and take longer to heal for older children and adults than new-born infants.

The Tribune notes that circumcision is falling out of favor. In 1970, 90% of male babies in the U.S. were circumcised compared to 60% today. Opponents of circumcision liken it to female mutilation, which is still performed in some parts of Africa. They argue that it is medically unnecessary and morally indefensible.

Most experts agree that circumcision originated from pre-Biblical days as part of a religious rite. Many believed it was done to discourage young boys from masturbation, which at one time was believed to cause blindness and insanity. In more contemporary times, medical arguments were developed that male circumcision actually reduced the incidence of infection; however, most major medical organizations throughout the world have discounted any medical benefit from the procedure. Some recent studies, though, have argued that uncut males are more likely to contract HIV than cut males.

Circumcision involves the removal of the male foreskin, or prepuce, which is the principal location of erogenous sensation in males. Removal of the foreskin substantially reduces erogenous sensation. Uncut males, as a result, enjoy more sexual pleasure from masturbation and sexual intercourse than their cut male counterparts.

The Tribune reports that there are no published U.S. opinions to serve as precedents for the case pending in Cook County court.

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