[A fine example of a covert-hostile Daily Mail article, to go with many others. See: Alex Renton, who was done over by the circumcision flacks, and now he wants your son to experience the same under the guise of 'health benefits'. Of course, it is just ego denial with him. Just like bottlefeeding advocates (eg), he misses out the emotional factor: "The traumatic pain of newborn circumcision adversely affects normal brain development, impairs affectional bonding with mother and has long lasting effects upon how pain and pleasure are experienced in life that shapes the development of Human Trust." TEN PRINCIPLES OF MOTHER-INFANT BONDING by James W. Prescott, Ph.D. Pushing circumcision hides these essential truths from himself, which is why people have a go at public displays of breastfeeding--it exposes their needs that were not met in childhood.]
Last updated at 1:55 AM on 14th July 2009
There is a simple, 15-minute surgical procedure that will ensure your baby boy is ten times less likely to get urinary tract infections.
When he grows up, he'll also be less likely to contract a whole range of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, genital warts, herpes and HIV-Aids.
He'll be much less likely to develop penile cancer or kidney problems (because he didn't suffer those urinary tract infections as a child). Furthermore, his partner is four times less likely to get cervical cancer.
Circumcision used to be common in this country but now we do it only for medical reasons to three per cent of boys
Interested? All the world's Jews and Muslims do it. So do most Americans. You've guessed it, it's circumcision, the trimming of the skin that encloses the top of the penis.
Circumcision used to be common in this country but now we do it only for medical reasons to three per cent of boys.
Indeed, the National Health Service advises against it.
There's been an extraordinarily fierce debate across the world for some 50 years - with the anti-circumcisers winning.
They say the ancient practice, which began 4,000 years ago with the Pharaohs, is an unnecessary mutilation and an infringement of a boy's human rights.
But slowly the evidence of the benefits of circumcision have built up until they are now - as experts from the World Health Organisation agree - undeniable.
Large-scale trials of circumcision in Aids-stricken African countries proved what had long been suspected - that heterosexual men who were circumcised were 60 per cent less likely to become infected with HIV.
Now mass circumcision programmes have begun in high Aids-risk countries, such as Kenya. If all men in Africa are circumcised, it is said, three million lives will be saved over the next 20 years.
The reason it works is because there's less of the penis exposed to infections - and the damage caused by sexually transmitted diseases is a route for the HIV virus to enter the blood.
Circumcision also means it is easier to keep the penis clean, so men are less likely to pass on the human papilloma virus (HPV), linked to cervical cancer, the disease that kills around 1,000 women in the UK every year.
Links between cervical cancer and circumcision have been known for more than 50 years. So why don't we automatically circumcise baby boys, as still is the case in much of the U.S.?
The NHS says that the procedure is necessary only for problems associated with an over-tight foreskin - and its advice is that the evidence on sexually transmitted diseases is not conclusive.
As the NHS told the Mail: 'We are aware of emerging evidence around potential benefits of circumcision in relation to protection from HIV and Aids.
But our national guidance is clear: circumcision should be carried out by the NHS only for medical reasons.'
But the World Health Organisation, the United States' Center for Disease Control and many other international bodies say the NHS is wrong: the case for circumcision is proven.
Circumcision is the norm for orthodox Jews and is done when the baby is just over a week old
Male circumcision is a traditional rite of passage throughout many regions of Africa, and festive ceremonies are held to celebrate the initiates' passage into manhood
As Dr Daniel Halperin, a lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health, explains: 'Given what we now know it would not surprise me if, in the next decade, circumcision of male infants does not again become the norm in Canada, the U.S., Australia and parts of Europe.
'But the Europeans, including the British, are more resistant to the idea.'
We used to circumcise many more British boys: the posher you were, the more likely you were to have it done. In 1948 it was found that 50 per cent of grammar school boys were circumcised - but among public schoolboys the figure was 84 per cent.
It is said the operation became fashionable after the British upper classes discovered that Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, was circumcised.
But in the Seventies, voices both within and outside the medical profession, started to claim that circumcision was unnecessary - or even a 'barbaric mutilation'.
They claimed children had died during the operation, and that it left men less able to obtain sexual pleasure.
This lobby group is still powerful. In this country Brian Sewell, the art critic, is patron of NORM-UK - a vociferous charity that has recently showered me with 'proof' that the new research is wrong.
One of NORM-UK's trustees even produced 'evidence' that, she said, showed circumcised men are more likely to get Aids because they are more likely to have more partners and indulge in unsafe sex.
By 1975 only six per cent of British boys were being circumcised and incidence of sexual disease was rising swiftly - though at the time this was blamed on the looser morals of that era.
Yet even though research about sexually transmitted diseases and circumcision was around in the Eighties - some Aids specialists feel the case was proven as early as 1989 - circumcision was a rarity outside religious groups in Europe.
Indeed, when I asked if my newborn son could be circumcised - at a private hospital in London - in 1999, the paediatrician said the operation was completely unnecessary.
Nowadays, no NHS GP will recommend the operation - or even help parents find a place where it is possible.
A surgeon at a Staffordshire NHS hospital has been suspended since March for suggesting the NHS was failing in its duties of care by not offering a circumcision service.
Not necessary: Nowadays, no NHS GP will recommend the operations - or even help parents find a place where it is possible
The surgeon, Dr Shiban Ahmed, says that the NHS is effectively forcing parents who want to circumcise their children (for religious reasons) into the hands of private clinics or traditional circumcisers.
He claims he has had to operate on small boys to correct problems arising
from botched private circumcisions.
It is, in fact, a simple operation, when done on a child under eight weeks of age.
The snip can be done with or without anaesthetic (it's said the local anaesthetic jab is more painful for the child than the procedure), and needs no stitches.
For older children and adults the operation becomes more difficult,
complex stitching is needed and the healing process will take at least six
weeks - and a private urologist will charge £2,500 to circumcise anyone over
eight weeks old.
Two months ago my Scottish cousin had a baby boy, Fergus. I'd told his parents about the research on circumcision, and they decided to get it done. But it wasn't easy.
Their GP laughed and the NHS hospitals in Edinburgh said they would not perform the operation as they did not like putting children under six months under general anaesthetic - but all circumcising doctors agree there is no need for the patient to be unconscious.
The urologist at Edinburgh's private hospital refused to do the job and another private doctor said he did only Jewish babies, and then in the traditional Jewish way.
My cousin realised in the end that if Fergus was to be circumcised he'd have to go to Britain's only dedicated penile surgery clinic in Luton.
You have to ask, at a time of increasing worry about sexual disease and
cancer, why this simple procedure is still effectively blacklisted.
One common objection by sexual health campaigners is that men may be less likely to use 'fiddly' condoms if they know that circumcision is a protection against sexual disease.
But men I have interviewed who have been circumcised as adults for
medical reasons say that in fact it is much simpler to put on a condom after
They also say - and this is confirmed in medical research - that their sexual pleasure was not altered.
I couldn't find an NHS GP prepared to be quoted in this article, even though many privately acknowledge that policy is now way behind medical research.
Dr Michael Barrie, a private GP who works in Kingston upon Thames,
Surrey, conducts two or three circumcisions a week, at £320 a go.
He sees mainly expatriates from South Africa, an Aids-struck nation where the benefits of circumcision are acknowledged.
He is one of a few non-Jewish or Muslim doctors who is open about what he does. He advertises his clinic on the internet - and NORM-UK has sent him letters demanding that he stop the service.
But Dr Barrie believes they, and the Government, have got it wrong.
'It's certainly time to look at the evidence again. If there's a clear link between circumcision and HPV and HIV, we are clearly in need of new government policy