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Views & Reviews Personal View

Circumcision in boys and girls: why the double standard?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 16 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d978

Consent, and necessity are the questions

The issue of whether circumcision might, or might not, confer any advantage isn't really the important one. Any adult, or adolescent, with the consent of their parents, can decide to have a tattoo, body piercing or genital mutilation. If they are of sound mind and properly informed of the dangers of the procedure and implications, then it's their decision.

If an operation is necessary on an infant, then who can object to parents consenting for it to be done?

Where a procedure is not necessary, and can be agreed to later, there is no excuse for parents consenting to it and none for a doctor performing it. There is no need for a change in the law, it is an assault and battery. All that would be necessary to change the practice would be for children who have been assaulted and mutilated to prosecute their parents and the doctor for battery. Enough prosecutions and the medical defence fund would probably start requiring their members to show actual medical necessity.

Competing interests: I was not mutilated by my parents

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 April 2011
Peter H.M Brooks
non medical
Cape Town 7925, South Africa