Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Is infant male circumcision an abuse of the rights of the child? No

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 06 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1181
  1. Kirsten Patrick, former Roger Robinson editorial registrar
  1. 1BMJ, London WC1H 9JR
  1. Kpatrick{at}

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

    Circumcision is one of the commonest surgical procedures performed on males, despite there being few absolute medical indications for it. The tradition of male infant circumcision accounts for this paradox. About 30% of men are circumcised; in most English speaking and Muslim countries circumcised men are in the majority, and most were circumcised in infancy.1 Although opponents argue that infant circumcision can cause both physical and psychological harm, recent strong evidence shows that circumcision is medically beneficial. If competently performed, it carries little risk.2 It cannot be compared with female circumcision, which has been shown to be no more than genital mutilation without medical benefit and with an unacceptably high likelihood of pain, immediate and long term medical complications, and psychosexual scarring.3

    Although any surgical operation can be painful and do harm, the pain of circumcision, if done under local anaesthesia, is comparable to that from …

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