QUEENSLAND LAW REFORM COMMISSION

CIRCUMCISION OF MALE INFANTS

RESEARCH PAPER



TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.   INTRODUCTION................................................ 1

     (a)  Terms of Reference..................................... 1
     (b)  Consultation........................................... 2
     (c)  The Need for Reform and The Commission Approach........ 2

2.   THE HISTORY OF MALE CIRCUMCISION............................ 3
     (a)  Origins................................................ 3
     (b)  Western Cultures....................................... 7
     (c)  Aboriginal and Island Culture.......................... 8
     (d)  Current Practice.......................................10

3.   THE PROCEDURE...............................................11
     (a)  Jewish Ritual Circumcision.............................11
     (b)  Non-Ritual Circumcision................................12

4.   THE LEGALITY OF CIRCUMCISION................................13

5.   THE PREPUCE.................................................17
     (a) Function of Prepuce.....................................17
     (b) Removal of Prepuce......................................17

6.   HEALTH REASONS FOR REMOVAL OF PREPUCE.......................18
     (a)  Neonatal Circumcision..................................18
     (b)  Non-neonatal Circumcision..............................19
          (i)    Phimosis........................................20
          (ii)   Paraphimosis....................................20
          (iii)  Non-retractable prepuce.........................21
          (iv)   Recurrent balanitis.............................22
          (v)    Complications of previous, inadequate neonatal
                 circumcision....................................22

7.   PROPHYLACTIC REASONS FOR REMOVAL OF PREPUCE.................22
     (a)  Hygiene................................................22
     (b)  Risk of Cancer.........................................23
     (c)  Urinary Tract Infections...............................27
     (d)  Sexually Transmitted Diseases..........................27
     (e)  Psychological and Sociological.........................30

8.   ARGUMENTS AGAINST ROUTINE REMOVAL OF PREPUCE................30
     (a)  The prepuce has a function.............................31
     (b)  Pain...................................................32
     (c)  Complications..........................................32
          *    Death.............................................32
          *    Damage to shaft...................................33
          *    Damage to urethra.................................34
          *    Amputation........................................35
          *    Unsightly appearance..............................35
          *    Urethral fistulas.................................35
          *    Haemorrhage.......................................35
          *    Incision line.....................................35
          *    Phimosis..........................................35
          *    Infections of meatus..............................36
     (d)  The Cost...............................................37

9.   CONCLUSION..................................................38


10.  POSSIBLE REFORMS............................................40
APPENDIX 1:    HEALTH INSURANCE COMMISSION STATISTICS:
               CIRCUMCISIONS - AUSTRALIA 1988 - 1993

APPENDIX 2:    NUMBER OF CIRCUMCISIONS PERFORMED -
               QUEENSLAND PUBLIC HOSPITALS ON PUBLIC PATIENTS
               1988-1991

APPENDIX 3:    CIRCUMCISION AND HIV INFECTION

COMMISSIONERS

Chairman:                         The Hon Mr Justice G N Williams

Deputy Chair                      Her Honor Judge H O'Sullivan

Members                           Ms R G Atkinson
                                  Mr W G Briscoe
                                  Mr W A Lee
                                  Ms L Willmott

SECRETARIAT

Secretary:                        Ms S P Fleming

Principal Legal Officer:          Ms P Cooper

Project and Research              Ms J Daley
Consultants:                      Ms M Westbrook

Administrative Officers:          Ms P McCarthy
                                  Ms J Smith

Previous Queensland Law Reform Commission publications on this
Reference: Consent by Young People to Medical Treatment, Information
Paper, May 1993.


The Commission's premises are located on the 13th floor, 179 North
Quay, Brisbane.  The postal address is P. O. Box 312, Roma Street, Q
4003.  Telephone (07) 227 4544. Facsimile (07) 227 9045.

Queensland Law Reform Commission
December 1993.

Cite as:
(File last revised 27 March 2002)

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