European doctors: U.S. colleagues support circumcision out of bias


Thirty-eight physicians from Europe wrote a paper alleging that “cultural bias” was behind the pro-circumcision stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The commentary, published Monday on the website of the U.S.-based Pediatrics journal, disputes a report by the academy last August that  “benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.”

The European reply, titled “Cultural Bias in the AAP’s 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision,” says that “seen from the outside, cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious. The report’s conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world.”

In the academy's report, the benefits attributed to circumcision — including protection against HIV, genital herpes, genital warts and penile cancer — are “questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves,” the European authors wrote.

A large percentage of non-Jewish males in the United States are circumcised, whereas in Europe the custom is limited almost exclusively to Jews and Muslims.

The European physicians found only one argument put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics to have “some theoretical relevance”: the possible protection circumcision offers against urinary tract infections in infant boys. But, they wrote, this “can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss.”

Approximately half of the European physicians are from Scandinavian countries, where several political parties have stated their opposition to circumcision as a form of “child abuse” or an unwanted phenomenon of immigration by Muslims.

European rabbis protest circumcision bans, plan to lobby


The Conference of European Rabbis will lobby against recent circumcision bans by advocating legislation supporting the practice.

This week, hospitals in Switzerland and a province of Austria announced that they would stop allowing ritual circumcision.

The German lower house of parliament passed a non-binding resolution last week to protect the religious circumcision of infant boys after a district court ban on the practice outraged Muslims and Jews.

“Our fears that the court ruling in Cologne, Germany, could have a knock-on effect across Europe are now being realized,” said Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis. “We must send out the clearest possible message that campaigners against infant circumcision are themselves threatening the human rights of our children in the most fundamental way.”

Rabbinic leaders in Austria and Switzerland have already begun the advocacy process.

“We are working with the government and hope to achieve a commitment for developing specific legislation,” said Chaim Eisenberg, chief rabbi of Vienna.

On Tuesday, Gov. Markus Wallner of the Vorarlberg province in Austria ordered doctors to stop performing infant circumcision for religious reasons until the legal status of the procedure is clarified.

“This is a subject that has to be regulated countrywide,” he said.

The French news agency AFP reported that the children’s hospital in Graz, the capital of the southeastern province of Styria, also has ceased scheduling infant circumcisions.

On Monday, U.S. military doctors in Germany declared that they would continue to perform ritual circumcision.

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