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Letter to AAP from Catholics Against Circumcision
Organization web site: http://CatholicsAgainstCircumcision.org/
Dear AAP Board Members:
I’m writing to you to request that you withdraw or rescind the newest 2012 AAP Circumcision Policy Statement. Below I have critiqued for you some of the serious problems with this new statement.
The Abstract states on page 585 that “health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns”, but this is not repeated even once in the long text on pages 758-785. Other long columns favoring circumcision are repeated over and over again, on pages 761-762, 770, 775-776, and 778. The 1999 AAP Statement was 8 pages long (pages 686-693), but this diatribe against living with a foreskin goes on for 28 pages. There is almost the feeling that AAP physicians hope that if they repeat something over and over again, eventually it might become the truth.
The AAP concludes on page 778 that “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks”, and yet on page 772 the AAP admits that “the true incidence of complications after newborn circumcision is unknown”. If one doesn’t know how often complications occur, then one can’t make the judgment that the benefits outweigh the risks! The AAP lacks the evidence it needs to make such a claim.
The 1999 Statement studied 40 years’ worth of research, and the 2012 studied only selective research since 1999. Only 1031 of 1388 studies were accepted to look at. Balance might have been found in the 357 studies that were omitted, but the AAP was not seeking balance. The AAP statement goes on ad nauseum about alleged “benefits”, to the point of fear-mongering that something will go wrong if an infant isn’t circumcised. It’s a high pressure sales pitch to try to get the American public to buy the circumcisions that AAP and ACOG doctors are selling. This is in direct contrast to Europe, where circumcision is uncommon and the health of European children equals or surpasses that of American children.
No studies on ethics were included in this statement, and it’s clear that the rights of the child and how a grown man might feel about HIS foreskin being stripped from him were never given any consideration at all by the AAP. These are major issues, and even more important than many of the other minor issues the AAP discusses. Material was provided to the AAP to study this aspect of circumcision, but it was ignored. With one bioethicist on the panel, you would have thought that the AAP might at least have given the ethics of circumcision a cursory examination, considering that they were provided with many sources showing the emotional distress many men feel. Ethics and mental health, however, nowhere enter the picture for the AAP. Respect for the bodily integrity of another person were not included, and medical ethics were thrown out the window as infants were thrown under the bus.
Financing studies weren’t included in the studies, but the AAP did its best to push financing repeatedly for third-party reimbursement of non-therapeutic circumcision, at the expense of taxpayers during a time of budget crises. Those with private insurance would see premiums and medical costs rise. The cost for circumcision on page 777 ranges from $216 to $601 per circumcision in the U.S. In 2010, the in-hospital U.S. circumcision rate was 54.7%. Thus, 45.3% of newborn males left the hospital genitally intact. If the AAP were to convince parents of these 45.3% to circumcise (as they are attempting to do in this 2012 statement), then there would be 45.3% of roughly 2.1 million baby boys that could be an additional income source for physicians. (Remember, don’t consider the ethics!) This would be an additional 951,300 male infants to profit from. At prices the AAP quotes, this could mean an additional $205,480,800 to $571,731,300 for doctors who circumcise. This is no small sum, and as Thomas Wiswell, M.D. stated on June 22, 1987 in the Boston Globe, “I have some good friends who are obstetricians outside the military, and they look at a foreskin and almost see a $125 price tag on it. Each one is that much money. Heck, if you do 10 a week, that’s over $1,000 a week, and they don’t take that much time.“ (Lehman 1987) Money like that would certainly help doctors make their mortgage payments and their car payments, pay for vacations, etc. - a “benefit” that the AAP failed to mention. Under Literature Search Overview, it is understandable why AAP physicians might consider it important to investigate “What are the trends in financing and payment for elective circumcision?”
No studies on the anatomy and functions of the foreskin were included. This is surprising, since it would seem like common sense to consider what the functions of any healthy body part are before amputating it. Probably since the male AAP Task Force members are all circumcised, this idea was difficult for them to grasp. Only one study on the sexual impact of circumcision was included, and this from Africa. Other studies were ignored or discounted. “The effect of male circumcision on the sexual enjoyment of the female partner”, which appeared in BJU INTERNATIONAL, Volume 83, Supplement 1, Pages 79-84, January 1, 1999, is not mentioned. Nor is the newest Danish study that was publicized on November 14, 2011 – “Male circumcision leads to a bad sex life” - “Circumcised men have more difficulties reaching orgasm, and their female partners experience more vaginal pains and an inferior sex life, a new study shows.” See: http://sciencenordic.com/male-circumcision-leads-bad-sex-life
The physical and sexual harms from circumcision are minimized or dismissed outright. Deaths from circumcision and botched circumcisions are considered “case studies”, and the children horribly damaged from circumcision don’t merit the AAP’s consideration, even though the AAP’s alleged mission is that it is “Dedicated to the Health of All Children”. When cribs are faulty or car seats aren’t safe, the AAP becomes concerned and warns the public. When physicians botch circumcisions and are at fault, children don’t matter. After one botched circumcision lawsuit and a large settlement, the company that manufactured the Mogen clamp went out of business. The AAP report should have advised physicians to NOT use the Mogen clamp because of the botched circumcisions that have resulted with this device. If still in use, no doubt there will be future tragedies with the Mogen clamp, but parents will only be able to sue the doctor and hospital and not the manufacturer.
There was so much reliance on studies from Africa in this statement that it seemed like the AAP should change its name to the African Academy of Pediatrics. In contrast to the AAP, the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) has stated: “…the association between having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) - excluding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and being circumcised are inconclusive…most of the studies [of the effect of circumcision on HIV] …have been conducted in developing countries, particularly those in Africa. Because of the challenges with maintaining good hygiene and access to condoms, these results are probably not generalizable to the U.S. population”. But generalize the AAP did! In addition, the AAP listed page after page of STDs that allegedly circumcision would prevent, and wrote conflicting statements about syphilis. A recent study in Puerto Rico found that circumcised men have HIGHER rates of STDs and HIV. The 60% reduced risk of HIV following circumcision is the relative risk reduction, not the absolute risk reduction. There’s a huge difference. Across all three female-to-male trials, of the 5,411 men subjected to male circumcision, 64 (1.18%) became HIV-positive. Among the 5,497 controls, 137 (2.49%) became HIV-positive”, so the absolute decrease in HIV infection was only 1.31%, which is not statistically significant.” (Boyle GJ, Hill G. Sub-Saharan African randomised clinical trials into male circumcision and HIV transmission: Methodological, ethical and legal concerns. J Law Med 2011; 19:316-34.)
Infants are not at risk of STDs or HIV through sexual contact, so this speculation about their future risk is foolhardy. Infants can also be at risk for many other diseases, but surgical amputation of healthy body parts is a foolhardy approach for prevention and treatment of disease. If an infant is at risk of an STD, then it is probably safe to say that an adult is perpetrating a crime against the child and needs to be arrested and charged.
Judaism and Islam are mentioned as religions that practice religious circumcisions. Once again, the statement ignores Christianity, which teaches that circumcision is unnecessary. Christianity is the largest religion in the U.S., but its teachings don’t even get a mention by the AAP, which is rather insulting! With an over-representation of members on the Task Force who have a religious bias favoring circumcision, this is not surprising.
The AAP promotes parents choosing medically unnecessary circumcision for their male children, completely contradicting what it said in PEDIATRICS, Volume 95 Number 2, Pages 314-317, February 1995. It said then, “Thus “proxy consent” poses serious problems for pediatric health care providers. Such providers have legal and ethical duties to their child patients to render competent medical care based on what the patient needs, not what someone else expresses… the pediatrician’s responsibilities to his or her patient exist independent of parental desires or proxy consent.”
Parents deserve factual information about circumcision, but they won’t find it in the new AAP Statement. In fact, the AAP wrongly advises parents of intact baby boys to retract the foreskin and wash it with soap and water. (page 763) Soap can alter the good bacteria under the foreskin, potentially causing infections that should then be treated with liquid acidophilus to restore the good bacteria. Water is sufficient for cleansing. Circumcised doctors with circumcised sons probably don’t know this.
On page 764, the AAP speculates that the foreskin contains a high density of Langerhans cells, “which facilitates HIV infection of host cells. Actually, the exact opposite is true. “Langerin is a natural barrier to HIV-1 transmission by Langerhans cells” (Nature Medicine- 4 March 2007). This study states, “Langerhans cells (LCs) specifically express Langerin … LCs reside in the epidermis of the skin and in most mucosal epithelia, such as the ectocervix, vagina and foreskin.”
UTIs can be prevented through breastfeeding, which the AAP allegedly supports. This is nowhere mentioned under “Male Circumcision and UTIs” on page 767. HPV
There is so much wrong with this new statement that it should immediately be withdrawn before it is presented on Monday. The AAP should either start all over again (with new, unbiased Task Force members), or renew its 1999 statement which attempted to at least give a more balanced view of circumcision. The 1999 circumcision statement certainly had its flaws by ignoring ethics and the anatomy and functions of the foreskin, but it wasn’t as atrocious as this new statement is.
If the AAP wants to remain a credible organization, it will look to the judgment of other foreign medical associations, who recognize that circumcision is medically unnecessary and has serious ethical problems underlying its practice. American parents should look to these foreign medical associations for good advice, since the AAP is not providing it in its new statement.
Petrina Fadel, Director
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