The Controversy Over Routine Neonatal Circumcision

Lionel Sydney Zuckler


Circumcision is undoubtedly the most frequently performed operation on males in the United States today. Between 69% and 97% of American males and one-seventh of the world's males are circumcised, with a frequency of 70% in Australia, 48% in Canada, and 24% in the United Kingdom. Yet this procedure is distinctly uncommon in Northern Europe, Central and South America,and Asia (Kaplan, 1977; Speert, 1953).

Within the last few decades the logic of routine neonatal circumcision has been challenged. The Committee on Fetus and Newborn of the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in 1971 that there are no valid medical indications for circumcision in the neonatal period. In 1975 the Committee reviewed the data and found no basis for changing this statement. Traditional, cultural, and religious factors all should play a part in the decision to circumcise, and the final decision of the parents should be one of informed consent (Committee, 1975). Nevertheless,
the Committee did elaborate on their statement at a later date, stating that they did not advocate the abandonment of circumcision, but could define no "absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the
newborn" (Committee, 1977).

Other medical authorities have continued to advocate routine neonatal circumcision and the literature on both sides of the argument continues to increase. This paper shall investigate the indications for, benefits from, and complications of circumcision, in order that accurate informed
consent may be given.





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