Call to end 'criminal' infant circumcision

The Independent, 13 July 1998

Call to end 'criminal' infant circumcision
Health Editor

A CAMPAIGN to save the foreskin is to be launched next month by
doctors who claim that the practice of circumcision is medically
unnecessary and could lead to charges of assault.

At a conference on sexual mutilations at Oxford University doctors
will call for the foreskin to be preserved to prevent problems
developing in later life. An estimated 30,000 circumcisions are
performed on the NHS each year plus an unknown number carried out
for religious reasons.

The National Organisation for Restoring Men (Norm), which is
organising the conference from 5-7 August, says circumcision is
nearly always medically unjustifiable and interferes with later
sexual enjoyment.

"Anatomical research has shown that the foreskin is the most highly
enervated and erogenous part of the penis. Its loss represents a
functional, dimensional and sensory deprivation that can never be
regained," it says.

Dr Peter Ball, a GP in Oxford [sic] and member of Norm said: "It
is not just a bit of skin that can be lopped off willy-nilly It is
a grave loss to someone's anatomy."

Dr Ball, who was circumcised himself but has restored his foreskin
by stretching the skin around the shaft of the penis, said men who
had been circumcised as adults reported decreased sensitivity and
reduced sexual enjoyment.

"The circumcised penis requires a lot more stimulation. The foreskin
contains a lot of sensory fibres which contribute to the impact of
the climax - and it is more comfortable for women."

About one in five men in the UK is estimated to be circumcised but
the popularity of the operation has declined sharply since the
1950s and about 3 per cent of boys are now circumcised. This compares
with an estimated 60 per cent in the US.

The commonest medical reason for circumcision is phimosis - a tight
foreskin that cannot be retracted. Critics say the operation can
be left until the late teens when patients can decide for themselves.

The conference is to be addressed   by   Margaret Somerville; former
director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law who last
year declared that circumcision was a criminal assault. She said
it was "a bodily wounding on a tiny infant that has given no consent

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