The Telegraph reports that a lecturer in ethics at Glasgow University has published a paper in the journal Clinical Ethics, arguing that it is unethical to circumcise boys for no medical reason. Dr. David Shaw writes that a doctor who performs infant male circumcision without therapeutic indication may commit negligence and be in breach of the Human Rights Act (UK) because a child cannot consent and child circumcision is not in the best interests of boys.
Essentially Dr. Shaw argues that circumcision, if it is to be carried out by medical staff, must be indicated. As such, it is subject to the same ethical considerations as any other medical procedure. Moreover, religious grounds do not apply because the infant patient is not in a position to hold religious views.
Dr. Shaw writes a long paper to methodically take apart the absurd notion, concocted to dance around a practice deeply embedded in society, that parents are the proxy patient when it comes to infant circumcision. He argues rather that the general consensus that circumcision is never medically indicated for infants and rarely for children makes its application negligent where it is the parents making the request for cultural or religious reasons.
This echoes Intact America‘s simple slogan during the AAP NCE 2009 conference: “The baby, not the parent, is your patient.”
You can download a pdf version of Dr. Shaw’s paper, Cutting through the red tape: non-therapeutic circumcision and unethical guidelines – Shaw 2009.