Surgical snipping without consent
I began in a place that’s relatively old world style. Growing up my world was patriarchal … that never sat well with me. Even as a child I did not like the idea of “needing” a man’s permission for my life. I have always harbored the mindset that we are equal. The male brain is no more evolved that mine based solely on the fact that he “may” possesses testosterone in greater quantities than I — (potential posts for another time).
My grandmother (aka bonus mom) never subscribed to the idea of circumcision. She was blessed with five male children. None of her boys she stated were circumcised. We will have to take her word for it!
When I was eighteen a close relative gave birth to her first child and she decided to have him circumcised. My teenage eyes saw what a botched job it was on that poor baby and my decision to never circumcise was recording data for future use.
Fast forward to years later, as a nurse I have had the pleasure and misfortune to be present for many life-changing events; circumcision being among them. That poor newborn’s screams echoed off the walls and I was moved beyond compassion for him. My questioning mind wondered why on earth would anyone put their child through such torment! My decision to forego circumcision was cemented!
When my own son was born and the question was asked, my answer was unequivocally NO! This was a debate I had had with myself since quite young and nothing had changed that notion for me. I knew I did not want to put him through that kind of torture.
What is circumcision?
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis. The procedure is mostly performed on newborn boys for the purposes of health benefits, religious reasons or to conform to societal norms.
Sometimes the need for circumcision is a medical one. If the foreskin is too tight and causes problems when it needs to be retracted over the glans. According to the US National Library of Medicine it is also recommended for older boys and men in an effort to reduce sexually transmitted infections and other times it is simply a rite of passage.
Benefits of circumcision:
- Easier to clean: With the removal of the foreskin, a male child will find it easier to keep the the penis clean.
- Less infections: Although the risks of urinary tract infections are low in males, per medical literature removing the foreskin further reduces the risk for themselves and future partners. Science has proven that circumcised men have a lower risk of acquiring and transmitting many sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Circumcision results in lower incidences of STI’s, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts, cancers of the penis and cervix, trichomonas and bacterial vaginosis.
- Necessary due to phimosis. Rarely the foreskin may be difficult or even impossible to retract (phimosis). This of course will require surgical intervention.
- Decreased incidence of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men. This can be a boon for their future partner as well.
- Reduced incidences of cervical cancers in female sexual partners of circumcised men.
- Financially beneficial to society.
Risks of circumcision:
- Genital mutilation — missteps can result in permanent functional and aesthetic changes.
- Risk of excessive bleeding — due to the close proximity of the urethra to the ventral surface(underside) of the penis, extreme caution should should be undertaken during the procedure as missteps can result in necrosis of the fragile tissue and/or the creation of a fistula (an abnormal connection between two structures). Death by bleeding may also be due to familial blood disorders.
- Infections — that become serious due to undeveloped immune system leading to; meningitis, necrotizing fasciitis, gangrene, and sepsis have all been reported as complications of infected circumcision sites.
- Excessive foreskin removal — this will eventually heal, but initially causes distress among both the parent, the child and the practitioner. Also may not be esthetically pleasing.
- Insufficient foreskin removal/adhesions and skin bridges — necessitates a second surgery, the excess skin covers and adheres to the glans (phimosis), resulting in the need for additional surgery.
- Urinary retention, cysts, chordee (curvature of the penis), stenosis (narrowing) of the meatus, hypospadias and epispadias, penile necrosis, and finally death.
We have some of the benefits and the risks with which we can make informed decisions. Medicine posits that circumcision benefits society by increased health and longevity. Parents are also tasked with making medical life-altering decisions about another person without their consent.
I have taught my eldest son how to retract the foreskin for hygiene purposes and to date he has had no issues with that. Still, safe sexual practices remain essential whether we decide to circumcise or to remain uncircumcised.