John Sambrook, a child protection advocate from Washington State, recently (June 29, 2019) posted a blog acknowledging the ways in which circumcision harms not just children and the men they will become, but harms physicians themselves. The essay is re-posted here with his kind permission. See Genital Integrity Kirkland for more blog posts and videos about John’s work to end infant circumcision.

Circumcision Harms Physicians Too

Sooner or later everyone is harmed by the presence of infant circumcision in our society.

Physicians, nurses and others in healthcare are not immune to these harms.

Becoming a physician exposes a person to trauma of different kinds. Physicians in training almost certainly have not fully integrated what they are being asked to do when they are first asked or told to assist with or perform infant circumcision. They are also likely to be hesitant to voice any objection to so doing, fearing that it may damage their chances of successfully completing their training.

Dr. George C. Denniston, MD, MPH, found that engaging in non-therapeutic circumcision immediately compromised his ethics. He relates the following experience:

I look back on the only time I have ever performed any circumcisions with regret and resentment. I resent having had no opportunity to study circumcision in medical school or to consider whether I thought it a treatment for anything. I resent the resident commanding me to do it, while offering no further guidance or help. In fact, I was treated just as the medical profession treats innocent new parents today. Doctors tell them a circumcision needs to be done. Before the new parent has time to consider, it is all over. Then it is too late to say no, and everyone has to live with the consequences. I was a medical student, so a lot of the responsibility was mine. I clearly violated, all in one instant, the Golden Rule (I certainly would not have wanted that done to me), the major tenet of medical practice, First, Do No Harm, and all seven principles of the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics. Mind you, I did not realize it then, just as unwary medical students do not realize it today. Now I know there are no valid medical indications for routine neonatal circumcision. I realize much harm can be done, evidenced by the thousands of men who have written their testimony and who have told me personally of the harm done to them. Now I also realize that I violated my patient’s basic human right to enjoy his entire body intact, while all he could do was scream his tiny head off. That was some years ago, but it might just as well have been last year.

A proper ethics provides a set of valid principles for guiding behavior such that people are not harmed, either by their own actions or by the actions of others. When ethics are non-existent or ignored, expect to find people being harmed and passing that harm on to others.

Denniston was harmed by having to perform circumcisions. At the time he saw no option but to comply with the orders that ultimately caused him to violate the most basic tenets of medicine. He had to live with what he had done. He experienced regret and resentment. He violated someone else’s right to the full enjoyment of their life. The infants he circumcised suffered too.

Denniston noticed his error and worked to make amends. He and other physicians ultimately went on to create the non-profit organization Doctors Opposing Circumcision.

Another example is provided by Dr. Adrienne Carmack, MD. A board-certified urologist, Carmack writes:

Circumcision is traumatic, and this cannot be denied. If you are considering circumcision, please, watch some videos, read stories by grown men who had “uncomplicated” circumcisions and are not happy, and reconsider taking actions that are painful and that interfere with nature when there is no problem, to begin with.

Exposure to trauma harms people. We know that members of the military can develop PTSD from traumatic experiences of war. We know that rape victims can develop PTSD from violent sexual assaults. Where is the evidence that physicians are somehow immune to the trauma of taking a healthy infant, strapping him into a Circumstraint and partially dissecting his penis for no valid reason?

Finally, please consider the following video by Dr. Michelle Storms, MD. In the video she says:

Believe me, I do feel that circumcision, the fact that I performed circumcision, did adversely affect me, and I do think I’m still trying to deal with that issue.

Is anyone prepared to refute Storm’s claim that she was harmed by circumcision? She indicates that she is still trying to deal with it. This is evidence of harm.

Denniston, Carmack, and Storms all indicate that they were harmed by the presence of non-therapeutic circumcision in their hospitals.  They all found it to be traumatic, to be a violation of medical ethics, and they all refused to perform the surgery in the future.

Thousands of physicians around the world agree with them. And not a single medical organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision.

Circumcision is traumatic. The damage it does is not and cannot be contained.

Everyone is harmed by circumcision. May the day come quickly when we no longer tolerate its presence in our lives.