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Circumcision in the Male Newborn

About 55% to 65% of newborn boys are circumcised each year in the USA, which reveals male circumcision to be a common practice nowadays. In spite of the marked tendency for such a procedure, the issue of circumcision remains quite controversial and provokes numerous debates. Therefore, numerous studies are undertaken in order to provide adequate evaluation and investigation of the reasons that provoke such a tendency, as well as benefits and potential risks that the procedure may carry.

The following research provides an examination of the prospective studies regarding circumcision and its effects on men’s health. It also examines the origin of the circumcision tradition and other considerations that provoke the tendency. The aim of the paper is to strike a balance between the opposing perspectives and find consensus regarding the issue of implementing circumcision as a routine practice.

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Circumcision and Its Effects on Men’s Health

To begin with, the tradition of circumcision is not a newly presented medical procedure but has existed for a long time. Originally, it stems from ancient traditions based on specific social values and ceremonies common for certain religious and ethnic groups. In some communities, for example, the African tribe, the circumcision procedure signified a man’s transition from childhood to adulthood. Besides, different forms of genital mutilation were related to taboos about human sexuality, aesthetic values, demands set by various religions, and specific concepts of beauty, health and normality in different nations (Hellsten, 2004).

Firstly, it was performed by people having no medical expertise, which often led to fatal consequences. Despite all the criticism and attempts to abolish the cruel procedure, it still remains a common practice nowadays. In particular, there is a marked tendency for male and female genital mutilation in poor developing countries, such as some African countries. There still exists a firm ideology based on specific social and religious beliefs, and people are following the customs and traditions established by their ancestors.

There is strong evidence that circumcision of the newborn males is still widely practiced in modern developed countries. However, it is not based on religious ceremonies as scientists and medical specialists found new medical justifications to the procedure. Therefore, nowadays the operation of the surgical removal of the penis foreskin is mostly performed due to hygiene considerations and health care reasons. Besides, the operation is done by qualified specialists having undergone specific training.

Medical Procedure as the Circumcision Operation

Along with other medical procedures, the circumcision operation is performed in the appropriate sanitary conditions with maintenance of all safety measures in order to minimize the adverse effects and complications. Interestingly, the rationalization of the circumcision procedure with medical and public health justifications led to its popularization, which provoked a significant increase in the national rate of newborn male circumcision between 1988 and 2000 (Nelson, Dunn, Wan & Wei, 2005). Since then there has been no significant increase in the tendency, but the procedure is still popular.

According to numerous medical observational studies and conclusions were drawn by the American Academy of Pediatrics (2012), the procedure of circumcision has more health benefits rather than disadvantages or potential risks. For example, prospective studies have shown that circumcised infants have fewer chances to suffer from such an unpleasant condition as urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially during the first year of their life.

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As the evidence shows, uncircumcised children are approximately ten times more likely to get the UTIs than circumcised infants. Besides, according to medical research results, circumcised men are less likely to have penis cancer, although the disease is quite rare anyway. Additionally, circumcision may also be done due to hygiene considerations as it helps avoid such unpleasant problems as irritation, inflammation, and infection.

A great number of studies were also devoted to the examination of the circumcision influence on the infection with sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and penile cancer. In spite of the conflicting and controversial results, circumcision has been proved to provide a considerably reduced risk of HIV infection. However, it cannot be regarded as a prevention method as it only reduces the risk of infection when contracting HIV (Hellsten, 2004).

Therefore, many scientists believe that the promotion of circumcision operation as an HIV/AIDS prevention method may become a serious obstacle and complicate significantly the AIDS-fighting campaign, especially in poor developing countries. For example, the data shows that HIV infection is three times more likely to happen during the operation itself in such African countries as Tanzania and Kenya (Myers & Myers, 2007).

When Circumcision Is Impossible or Undesirable

However, sometimes circumcision is impossible or undesirable due to some medical reasons and circumstances. Firstly, in some cases, circumcision is a contraindication due to the potential risks that would overwhelm the health benefits for a patient. For example, such a procedure is forbidden if a newborn child has some inborn physical abnormalities of the genitals. Overall, complications during and after the circumcision operation in newborn males are uncommon or very rare. In case of minor bleeding or infection, it is easy to cure and eliminate. Professional expertise and experience of the medical staff, and also maintenance of all safety and prevention techniques helps eliminate and minimize any potential adverse effects.

It must be said that the procedure of circumcision may be quite painful. That is one of the reasons why many opponents of circumcision call it a cruel and violent act towards newborn babies. However, nowadays in order to minimize the traumatic effect and pain felt during and after the operation, some effective pain management techniques are used by medical staff. In contemporary medical practice, doctors may use a topical cream or injection of anesthesia to reduce pain. Besides, there are some debates concerning the decreasing of a penis sensitivity, which may affect negatively men’s sexual function and ability to receive sexual satisfaction.

However, none of these assumptions have been confirmed or denied due to a lack of evidence. In order to demolish similar prejudices concerning circumcision, numerous studies devoted to the investigation of the health effects of circumcision were conducted. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (2012) in their technical report provided accumulated results of many studies and observations in order to find the consensus between the opposed opinions.

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On the other hand, there are many nonmedical considerations and ideas opposing the practice of circumcision. Firstly, from the ethical point of view, circumcision is often regarded as a violation of human rights as a patient’s self-determination in decision-making is violated. Besides, sometimes circumcision is positioned as child abuse (Van Howe, 2013). Especially, it refers to the cases when parents decide to perform circumcision in their newborn son not due to medical and health care reflections, but basing their decision on religious or social traditions. It is said that newborn children have no religion, therefore, they will have a chance to opt for it later, when growing up (Benatar & Benatar, 2003).

The opponents of the practice claim that nature makes no mistakes. Therefore, any intervention and violation of the physical integrity of a child is regarded as an unnatural act as it may have permanent physiologic consequences. Besides, they regard any tradition and religious justifications of circumcision as the remnants of old traditions. Surprisingly, nowadays, an increasing number of Jews in the USA, UK, and Israel oppose the practice of circumcision in spite of its religious and traditional significance.

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Circumcision Carries More Health Benefits Than Potential Risks

Overall, according to numerous medical studies and the American Academy of Pediatrics, circumcision carries more health benefits than potential risks and adverse effects. While in developing countries circumcision is still based on cultural and religious beliefs, the operation has received new medical justifications in modern civilized countries. However, despite the fact that medical research and study have proved the beneficial nature of the procedure, there still is not enough strong evidence that would allow recommending this procedure as a routine measure for all newborn males. For the time being, it is up to parents to decide whether to let their baby undergo such a procedure or not. Therefore, to find a consensus in the current situation, different measures should be taken into action.

Firstly, parents, as the ones responsible for the well-being of their child, should get the correct and unbiased information concerning the circumcision operation. They should be aware of the potential risks and possible adverse effects. The AAP has already launched a special program aimed at spread information about circumcision operation among parents. Besides, there should be strict control of the medical stuff and conditions in which the operation is performed. The maintenance of the high standards of medical service and necessary safety measures should be applied in order to minimize the potential risks and provide maximal security during the operation.

Secondly, in order to find a consensus between the opposing perspectives, further prospective medical research and study is required. Apparently, medical research of the circumcision and its effects on men’s well-being and health is a relatively new tendency. Therefore, there were many conflicting and controversial results that did not help to get an adequate image of the matter. Besides, some studies revealed that such peculiarities as patients’ ethnicity should also be taken into account during the investigation.

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