Infant Circumcision: Is it Really Necessary?
“The standard of care for infections is antibiotics, not amputation”, says Eileen Marie Wayne, MD. Beginning in the twentieth century, neonatal circumcision has grown to become one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States (Galloher 1). The operation has become so commonplace that physicians and parents hardly consider it surgery at all. The procedure is often done with little thought, as though it is simply a routine of childbirth, such as cutting the umbilical cord. Despite this, the United States stands alone in their corner. The viewpoint of circumcision in the rest of the world is that of either a religious ritual or an infrequent medical intervention to treat specific diseases. Apart from religious ceremonies, the rest of the world believes that circumcision should not be done unless it is medically necessary. How did a ritual surgery, seemingly older than civilization itself, become firmly preserved in standard American medical practice? Beyond that, how has an operation whose benefits have never been convincingly verified, managed to survive to this day? The reasons for a medically unnecessary circumcision are to “decrease sexual pleasure and fulfillment, to repress sexuality, religious purification, moral hygiene, power and control, dominance and submission, cosmetics, conformity, denial, and profit” (Wayne). Yet, the United States chooses to blatantly ignore patient consent in regard to neonatal circumcision. Thanks to advancements in the medical field and better access to sexual education it is now known that this is no longer a necessary preventative surgical procedure and it should no longer be routine, especially among infants who cannot speak for themselves.
Circumcision itself dates back thousands of years. So far in fact, that it’s exact origin is not entirely known. However, we do know that circumcision has a long religious and ritualistic history. The first known documentation of circumcision was actually found in hieroglyphs belonging to the ancient Egyptians. Evidence of this lies in the depictions of scenes of ritualistic group circumcisions on the tomb walls of several tombs in Egypt and in writings from ancient Greek historians like Herodotus. Circumcision in ancient Egypt was thought to be a mark of passage from childhood to adulthood and was extremely religious; it was not something that was done in infancy. The alteration of the body and ritual of circumcision were supposed to give “access to ancient mysteries set aside exclusively for the initiated” (Galloher 43). The content of those mysteries are not clear to historians but are most likely myths and prayers involving Egyptian religion. Circumcision was then adopted by the Jewish people living in or around Egypt. As Herodotus wrote, “now these are the only nations who use circumcision, and it is plain that they all imitate herein the Egyptians” (Herodotus Book I). Eventually circumcision became so prominent in Jewish culture that it became a conclusive mark of Judaism. The stories in the Bible play a large role in the continued history of circumcision among the Jewish culture, as many biblical references to the act of circumcision are seen throughout the text. In one such reference in the Book of Genesis, God told Abraham to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as an “everlasting covenant in their flesh” (Genesis 17:9-10). Regardless of whether or not the text is a historically accurate document, it certainly influenced many people to follow in Abraham’s wake. In addition to Judaism, circumcision was also prominent in the Islamic religion, a practice that continues today among both religions. Throughout the Renaissance era, and continuing into the 18th century, English speaking (and dominantly Christian) countries were adamantly against circumcision for its unnaturalness, and the act continued to be only performed by Jewish and Muslim peoples (Gollaher 45). During...
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