Informed Consent Necessary for Male Neonatal Circumcision

News  Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW, Australia). Saturday, 4 October 1997.

Honey Webb


Doctors who performed circumcision on infant boys were at risk of negligence claims if they failed to inform parents of all possible side effects, an academic has warned.

In a paper presented as part of the External link Australasian Law Teachers Association Conference in Sydney yesterday, Mr Les Haberfield, of the External link Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said recent court rulings on the duty of doctors to inform patients of risks of medical procedures could also be applied to circumcision.

These risks could include pain, unsightly appearance, damage to the shaft, damage to the urethra, hemorrhage, infections, amputation or, rarely, death, he said.

In 1992, the External link High Court ruled that surgeons and doctors must advise patients of all material risks of operations and treatments or face action for negligence if a patient suffered an undisclosed side effect.

Applying that rule, Mr Haberfield said if a circumcision went wrong and it could be established that the doctor had not informed the parents of the full range of risks, that doctor could be found negligent.

The Australian College of Paediatrics released a statement in 1996, saying discussion with parents about potential health benefits and risks of circumcision was essential and up-to-date, unbiased written material should be made available on the issue.

Sydney Morning Herald
GPO 3771
Sydney, NSW 2001


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