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09 Mar 2004

Are there any side affects when removing an infant male's foreskin ?
Are there any psychological side affects doctor which arise when an infant is subjected to this intense pain and trauma of circumcision just after birth ? I have read so many conflicting comments both here and elswhere. SA doctors appear as confused as well. I have read an excellent article by an
Canadian Professor Margaret Somerville who states clearly it is bad to circumcise and their a storng possibilty of mental anguish and disorder later in the life of the said male. Any guidance your side ?
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear cm,
There is ABSOLUTELY NO good evidence of ANY lasting ill-effects following infant circumcision. To what extent the infant experiences pain is conjectural, a guess --- we feel it ought to be painful, though as the child's nervous system is still developing, it's hard to be sure about this. There is no reason to assume that the infant experiences trauma, as this requires a higher level of intellectual functioning than an infant is capable of mustering, in order to recognize and alanyze what is happening to one. So to talk of trauma in that way would be to misuse the term ( and I am an acknowledged expert in the field of psychological trauma, and take it very serously indeed ). One must also take into account the large and consistent body of evidence for infantile amnesia, for the fact that there is rarely any good evidence that any of us actually can remember things that happened to us in our earliest years of life -- the amnesia often extending to 3 or 4 years of age. So whatever the experience may have been like for the infant, the child could not remember how awful it might have been, and such memories would be necessary for lasting psychological problems to result from it.
You must be doing some very weird reading as neither SA doctors nor genuine international experts have any disagreement on this topic whatsoever --- no competent expert believes that circumcision causes the sort of damage you assume that it does. I have never seen any "conflicting comments" from any recognizeable experts at all.
I happen to believe that routine circumcision is a bad idea, because it is simply unnecessary escept in really uncommon situations, and thus although physical complications are uncommon, they are all unnecessary and preventable, and the operation represents a waste of medical resources.
Now, as for the author of your "excellent article", Margaret Somerville, I happen to know Margaret well enough to reject her article on such a subject, and the conclusions you say she draws, without even needing to read it. She has absolutely no relevant expert qualifications to assess and opine on the subject. She has been a professor of Medical Ethics, appointed at a tinme when something rare and foolish was happening in Canada ( I was a professor there at the time ) --- someone died and left a large fortune to medical schools / universities, on condition that they appoint someone as a professor of medical Ethics. Although there are some real experts in the firld, there are never enough on earth, let alone accessable in Canada, to suddenly ceate so many professorships within a sort space of time with the highest calibre of qualified person. Anyhow, she was one of this sudden flush of people all professing to be experts in ethical aspcts of medicine.
Margaret doesn't practice health care, so far as I know, and hasn't conducted any proper health care / medical research either. I can't recall her having the sort of health science qualifications that would enable her to competently assess this issue, though I may be wrong about this. I do remember her as animatedly opinionated, and really fond of publicity and controversy, so it doesn't greatly surprise me to hear that she has written on this topic among so many others.
Perhaps you misquote her, for if she actually does claim that infant circumcision causes a "storng possibilty of mental anguish and disorder later in the life of the said male", then she is venturing far, far, beyond her own areas of expertise, and reacing conclusions that are not supported by any good scientific research.
And so we get back to Baldy's comments. it is inlikely that the mere removal of a small piece of skin could have such lasting ill effects, and We hesitate to draw conclusions applicable to millions of people on the basis of a single case. But there is in South Africa, one single case which Ms Somerville might care to study, of a person, presumably himself circumcised at an early age, who seems to have become really seriously and chronically unbalanced in relation to this process, and who seems incapable of ever getting the matter into perspective or being capable of ratonal thought on the subject. And who also seems to be unable to recognize how eternally boring he has become, and how much damage he has caused and continues to cause, to the issue which so consumes him. Sad.
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