Learn before you sign a circumcision consent formBefore you sign any hospital form asking you to allow your boy to be circumcised, be very sure about your decision. That is most important for two reasons. First, circumcision cannot be reversed, and second, because it is not your physician prescribing the operation—it’s YOU. For you to make a wise decision you must thoroughly acquaint yourself with the foreskin’s anatomy, and the lasting effects and possible complications of circumcision. Visit all of the Circumcision Decision-Maker pages that examine whatever reasons you might have for requesting it. If at all possible, witness an actual circumcision beforehand, or at the very least watch a circumcision video. You will be shocked at how excruciating and traumatic it would be for your newborn baby boy.1

Many legal professionals and ethicists maintain that parents do not have the right to give consent for elective (optional) surgery for their children—only for life-saving surgery.2345 While this flies in the face of its cultural acceptance, we urge caution since circumcision is an unnecessary surgery in almost all cases. They also hold that any exception on religious grounds may well also be unethical, because a person’s right to practice religion applies only to that person himself.6 Others want to see circumcision as a special case, so long as parents are fully informed of the risks and still consider their decision in the best interest of the child—and not of anyone else. 7
Think before you choose
Before signing any form
, if you are still inclined to authorize the operation, seriously ask yourself: “What’s the rush?” After all, the great majority of the world’s men (80%-85%)8 are intact, healthy and happy in their natural state. Circumcision can always be performed later should a rare genuine medical need arise. Consider, too, the very important matter of your son’s individual rights. It is his body, so shouldn’t such a body-altering and life-changing surgery really be his decision when he is old enough to understand?

  1. Anand KJS, Hickey PR. Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus. New Engl J Med. 1987;317(21):1321-9.
  2. Svoboda JS, Van Howe RS, Dwyer JC. Informed consent for neonatal circumcision: an ethical and legal conundrum. J Contemp Health Law Policy. 2000:17(1):61-133.
  3. Povenmire R. Do parents have the legal authority to consent to the surgical amputation of normal, healthy tissue from their infant children?: The practice of circumcision in the United States. Am Univ J Gend Soc Policy Law. 1998-1999;7(1):87-123.
  4. Wheeler R. Consent for non-therapeutic male circumcision: an exception to the rule? Arch Dis Child. 2008 Oct;93(10):825-6.
  5. Somerville M. The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit. Toronto: Viking; 2000:204-205.
  6. Robinson R, Makin E, Wheeler R. Consent for non-therapeutic male circumcision on religious grounds. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2009 Mar;91(2):152-4. Epub 2008 Dec 19.
  7. Cooke RWO. Good practice in consent. Sem in Fetal & Neonatal Med, 2005;10:63e71.
  8. Williams N, Kapila L. Complications of circumcision. Brit J Surg. 1993;80:1231-6.
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