Ethical Reflections

The Ethics of Circumcision of Male Infants

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Click on the icon on the upper right hand side for the article written by Allan J. Jacobs, MD, JD.
IMAJ 2012: 15: January: 60-65
Abstract

 Infant circumcision has recently attracted controversy, with professional groups recommending it and various individuals trying to criminalize it. Circumcision is beneficial in the prevention of certain diseases, causing minimal tangible harm to those circumcised. This article argues that government should affirmatively adopt policies tolerating minority practices. Such activities should be banned only if they cause substantial damage to society or its members, or if they engender risks or injuries to which no reasonable person would consent. The benefits and risks of circumcision are outlined. Circumcision of male infants does not trigger cause for government to abolish it, and should be permitted if parents desire it. This article also summarizes common arguments against circumcision and attempts to refute them. These arguments are based on a desire for gender equality as well as a belief that minors should not undergo elective bodily alteration. If there are no unusual risks, parents can ethically authorize, and physicians ethically perform, elective infant circumcision for prophylaxis of disease, ritual purposes, or aesthetic reasons. Furthermore, the state should permit this.