Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Is infant male circumcision an abuse of the rights of the child? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 06 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1180
  1. Geoff Hinchley, accident and emergency consultant
  1. 1Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Trust, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 8JL
  1. geoff.hinchley{at}

    Most circumcisions take place for religious rather than medical reasons. Geoff Hinchley argues that the practice is harmful and should be stopped but Kirsten Patrick believes that the future sexual health benefits justify parental choice

    Improved understanding of the normal anatomy of the infant foreskin means there is now rarely a therapeutic indication for infant circumcision,1 and the procedure is not supported by international medical opinion.2 Ritual (non-therapeutic) male circumcision, however, continues unchecked throughout the world, long after female circumcision, facial scarification, and other ritual forms of infant abuse have been made illegal. The law and principles pertaining to child protection should apply equally to both sexes, so why do society and the medical profession collude with this unnecessary mutilating practice?

    Ritual male circumcision is an ancient religious rite for Muslims and Jews, and the crux of this debate revolves around the primacy of parental religious conviction versus the primacy of the human rights of the child, the preservation of its bodily integrity, and its right of self determination.

    In addition to religious justification, there have been many spurious and now …

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