ROYAL OAK — Any decision involving the modification of male genitalia is an extremely personal one.
The debate between the pros and cons of circumcision received a spark Sept. 1 after a group of 42 people representing the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) protested outside of Beaumont Hospital in opposition of circumcision of infant boys.
“We were protesting the (American Academy of Pediatrics’) decision released Aug. 27 that said the health benefits outweigh the risks,” said Norm Cohen, state director of NOCIRC of Michigan. “We feel they did this to protect the insurance. They say the benefits outweigh the risks, but they aren’t able to really quantify the risks. If the rate continues to fall, the insurance company would see this as an elective procedure they’d not have to pay.”
Cohen claimed that more than 1,900 boys are circumcised at Beaumont Hospital each year and more than 51,000 (87 percent) have the procedure done annually throughout Michigan at a cost of $13 million. He said the decision of such a body modification should be held off until the individual is 18 years old and can decide on his own.
“Michigan has the highest rate of circumcisions in the western world,” Cohen said. “We feel this is an unnecessary intrusion on the life of a little boy without their consent. They’re not experts in anatomy. They’re not experts in men’s health.”
Although Cohen finds fault with the numbers and the proposed health benefits, Beaumont Pediatrician Dr. Marlene Roth said the facts are the summary of more than 100 international studies and reports that found, as a whole, circumcision helps prevent herpes, AIDS, HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases and newborn infections.
“The research and statistics show there is a health benefit,” Roth said. “(The American Academy of Pediatrics) published it, but said there’s still not anything definite to recommend one way or another. My personal opinion is it’s hygienic and it’s fine, but I always leave it up to the parents.”
Roth said there are a variety of issues factored into the decision of circumcisions, but religion and personal beliefs are the largest ones. She said bleeding and infection are the only risks involved, both of which are easier to manage with infant circumcisions than adult circumcisions.
“It’s a painful procedure for a baby,” Roth said. “There’s a risk of infection, a risk of infection with circumcision. That’s brought up a lot. They’re pretty rare. The bleeding and infection are quite rare.”
As for the benefits, Roth said circumcision decreases the chances of contracting herpes by 28-34 percent and genital warts by 30-40 percent.
“Heterosexual HIV transmission decreased by 40-60 percent in Africa,” Roth said. “You present the facts, and, unfortunately for people who don’t want circumcisions, the facts say there are health benefits.”
Roth said a common misconception she’s heard is that uncircumcised sexually active adults will gain sensitivity if they have the procedure performed.
“The penis is more sensitive when it’s circumcised, which has not been proven,” Roth said. “(The report) is conclusive in the disease risks, but not the sensitivity, which a lot of people bring up.
“If you get it done later, there’s suturing involved and you’re going to have to get stitches.”
She said there are more people opting to remain uncircumcised than in years past, although the majority of parents still choose to have the procedure done on their infant boys.
Beaumont Children’s Hospital leaves the decision to parents and encourages them to discuss the options with their doctors.
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