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Circumcision advocacy

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Circumcision advocacy refers to those who advocate circumcision and their activities in support of this cause. In scholarly sources it is used in an article by Hodges, Svoboda and Van Howe in the Journal of Medical Ethics [1], and also in the title of Tyranny of the victims: An analysis of circumcision advocacy. In Male and female circumcision: Medical legal and ethical considerations in pediatric practice, ed. G. C. Denniston, F. M. Hodges, and M. F. Milos, 223-24. New York [2]. The term "circumcision advocate" has been used in a newsletter from the University of Sydney, Australia [3] and in the Australian Doctor [4] to refer to Professor Brian Morris. The term was also used in the New Mexican in 2001 [5]. Dr Sam Kunin, MD describes himself as a pro-circumcision advocate [6].

History Edit

Ephron reports that Gentiles and also some Jewish reformers in early 19th Century Germany had criticized ritual circumcision as "barbaric" and that Jewish doctors responded to these criticisms with defences of the ritual or proposals for modification or reform. [7] By the late 19th century some German Jewish doctors defended circumcision by claiming it had health advantages. [8]

Prominent circumcision advocates in English-speaking countriesEdit

Circumcision spread in several English-speaking nations from the late Nineteenth Century. One reason for this was promotion by doctors such as Sir Jonathan Hutchinson in England [9]. Peter Charles Remondino, of San Diego, wrote a History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the Present: Moral and Physical Reasons for Its Performance (1891), to promote circumcision.[10] Lewis Sayre, a prominent American Orthopedic surgeon at the time, was another early American advocate. Abraham Wolbarst, a New York Jewish doctor, [11] published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1914 advocating universal circumcision for health reasons. He first advocated circumcision to prevent penile cancer in 1928, and in 1932 he published a study to document his claim. Some recent studies have shown that circumcised men are at a reduced risk, particularly from invasive penile cancer, though circumcision does not provide complete protection. For further discussion, please see: medical analysis of circumcision.

In the late Nineteenth Century, doctors and others advocated circumcision to prevent masturbation, which was then considered sinful and harmful. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg recommended circumcision of boys, writing: "A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision.... The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering anaesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment." (Kellogg, 1888) As late as 1936. L. E. Holt, an author of pediatric textbooks, advocated male and female circumcision to prevent masturbation [12].

Dr. Benjamin Spock (d. 1998), who originally supported circumcision, changed his mind near the end of his life (B. Spock, Circumcision - It's Not Necessary Redbook, April 1989). Dr. Thomas Wiswell, who was originally opposed to circumcision, later changed his mind after his research revealed a protective effect against urinary tract infections [13]. Dr. Edgar Schoen, (b. 1925) former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Task Force on Circumcision, maintains a web site promoting circumcision [14] and claims physical benefits in sexual performance in addition to medical arguments. Aaron J. Fink, M.D. (d. 1990), another late 20th century circumcision advocate, self-published Circumcision: A Parent's Decision for Life to promote his ideas.

Circumcision advocates in Australia and Canada Edit

Both Australia and Canada have circumcision advocates. Dr. Pollock, a Canadian doctor who concentrates on vasectomies and circumcisions, asserts that he has safely performed over 16,000 circumcisions [15] claiming a lifetime of medical benefits. In Ontario, Canada, Dr Aaron Jesin, a General Practitioner, runs a circumcision clinic. His website reproduces a Circlist webpage containing articles from before the year 2000 on the medical benefits claimed for circumcision [16]. In Australia, Professor Brian Morris, author of "In Favour of Circumcision" [17] said, "It was never my intention to be the biggest campaigner for circumcision in Australia. Really, I’m a campaigner for science." [18] Morris writes that circumcision confers many medical benefits including reduced risk of UTIs, penile cancer, HIV, balanitis, posthitis, phimosis, and prostate cancer and argues that circumcision has sexual benefits [19].

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Circumcision advocatesEdit

Critics of circumcision advocacyEdit


  • Robert Darby, "A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2005. (ISBN 0-226-13645-0)
  • John M. Ephron, Medicine and the German Jews. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001: 222-233. (ISBN 0-300-08377-7)
  • Leonard B. Glick, "Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America", New York, Oxford University Press, 2005
  • David A. Gollaher, Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 253 pages. (ISBN 0-465-04397-6)
  • John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., Plain Facts for Young and Old. Burlington, Iowa: F. Segner & Co., 1888.
  • Edward Wallerstein, Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy. New York: Springer Publishing Co. 1980.

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