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Doctors' Group Charged with
Dumping Kids' Rights

FOR RELEASE: March 1, 1999 5 p.m. (E.T.)

CONTACT: Tim Hammond 415-826-9351

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San Francisco, CA - The National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM) today charged the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with playing politics with the health and human rights of America’s children. NOHARMM Executive Director Tim Hammond responded to the AAP’s release of its new policy that finds no medical reason to recommend infant circumcision but, according to Hammond, "permits doctors to excise the healthy foreskins of baby boys simply for social custom."

"Circumcision for social custom has no place in modern medicine," Hammond said, "because the foreskin is normal, protective and sexually functional tissue. Infant circumcision has negative health consequences and it violates human rights." Hammond said that 80% of the world’s males are genitally intact (non-circumcised) and that physician groups in other medically-advanced nations actively discourage circumcision.

"The AAP is playing politics with children’s health and rights by adhering to the lowest possible set of ethical standards on this issue" Hammond claimed. "It knows that circumcision is a damaging social custom but won’t criticize circumcision too strongly because it fears being an agent of social change. Yet, it allows its doctors to be the paid agents of this social custom involving unconsenting children. The AAP is forsaking its responsibility to protect a boy’s right to his own body."

NOHARMM, a San Francisco-based health and human rights organization, conducts an ongoing survey of North American men circumcised in infancy. The survey, published in the January 1999 issue of the British Journal of Urology, found wide-ranging physical, sexual and psychological consequences from circumcision. Specific findings included tight, painful erections, progressive sensitivity loss in the glans (penile head), and sexual dysfunctions. Many men reported a sense of having been violated or mutilated, and feelings ranging from resentment to rage over this surgical alteration they did not choose.

Hammond criticized the AAP for citing what he called "a seriously flawed 30-year old survey" by Masters & Johnson to support the claim that there is no difference in sensation or sexual satisfaction between the circumcised and intact penis. He said the 1966 survey tested only for light tactile discrimination on the penile shaft and glans but ignored the foreskin. "The mere ability of circumcised and intact men to detect tactile stimulation does not reveal the quality of perception or differences in the sensual and pleasure components of response" Hammond said.

According to Hammond, the AAP’s policy of alleging "potential" medical benefits without actually recommending circumcision is an attempt to protect circumcisers from legal action. In October 1997, one of Canada’s leading medical ethicists, Dr. Margaret A. Somerville at the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Montreal, publicly opposed physician-assisted circumcision of healthy male newborns. She stated that infant circumcision is not medically justified and is "technically, criminal assault."

Hammond said that the AAP should heed the words of Dr. Nahid Toubia, Associate Professor at Columbia University’s School of Public Health and an opponent of genital mutilation of girls and boys. Toubia wrote in a 1994 issue of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics that, "The unnecessary removal of a functioning body organ in the name of tradition, custom or any other non-disease related cause should never be acceptable to the health profession. All childhood circumcisions are violations of human rights, and a breach of the fundamental code of medical ethics. …It is the moral duty of educated professionals to protect the health and rights of those with little or no social power to protect themselves."

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A Preliminary Poll of Men Circumcised in Infancy or Childhood (British Journal of Urology/January 1999)
[NOHARMM’s survey of more than 500 men about adverse long-term consequences of infant circumcision.]

Critical Reporting of the 1999 AAP Circumcision Statement
[Suggested guidelines for evaluation and critical reporting.]

Circumcision FactFinder: Resource Page for the News Media
[Links to the most current medical, ethical, legal and human rights pages on the Web relevant to circumcision.]

Circumcision Information and Resource Pages
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[Contains the newly released AAP policy statement, responses from other consumer/professional organizations, and an extensive library of published journal articles from the fields of medicine, ethics, law and human rights.]

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