CIRCUMCISION OF MALE INFANTS RESEARCH PAPER,
Queensland Law Reform Commission.
December 1993.


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1. INTRODUCTION (a) Terms of Reference This reference is part of a wider reference given to the Commission by the Attorney-General in its Fourth Programme of work.1 The full terms of the reference are set out in item 4 of the Programme, namely: "Examine the rights relating to consent to medical procedures by: (a) children (b) intellectually disabled adults (including consent to sterilization. The Commission has divided the terms of reference into two major parts. The first part concerns consent by young people to medical procedures. The second part concerns consent to medical procedures on intellectually disabled adults.2 The first part of the reference has been divided into distinct research projects to enable the Commission to deal with particular issues in detail and to avoid confusion between seemingly disparate matters. The research projects currently being undertaken include: (i) consent to medical examinations in child abuse cases; (ii) female genital mutilation (iii) male circumcision (iv) general legislation on consent to medical treatment of young people (v) sterilisation of young people. (vi) treatment of severely defective neonates. This Research Paper concerns item (iii) above. (b) Consultation In May and June 1993 advertisements were placed in the Courier-Mail calling for public submissions on Consent by Young People to Medical Treatment. An Information Paper outlining a wide range of issues was available to assist anyone interested in making a written or oral submission. Also a number of media interviews were given by a member of the Commission to elicit public interest in the matters being dealt with. Approximately 300 copies of the information paper have been distributed and, to date, approximately 160 oral and written submissions have been received. 24 of these submissions relate specifically to consent to circumcision of male infants. In addition, a number of individuals and organisations with a particular interest in male circumcision have been approached for information and opinions on relevant matters raised by the reference. The assistance of those who have made submissions and others who provided information and comments to the Commission in the preparation of this paper is greatly appreciated. (c) The Need for Reform and the Commission's Approach From the Commission's research to date, it is apparent that there are two quite vocal sides of the debate on routine infant male circumcision. One side advocates the practice, primarily on a preventative health basis or on religious grounds. The other side opposes the practice, primarily on human rights and preservation of bodily integrity grounds. Both sides rely on medical evidence and opinion to support their views. This Research Paper has been produced to assist the Commission in understanding the issues and arguments on the topic of routine infant male circumcision. It is being circulated to individuals and organisations with an interest or expertise in the issues raised, to verify the accuracy and significance of the information contained in the Research Paper, and to seek suggestions as to the most appropriate approach to adopt. There will be wider community consultation on routine infant male circumcision and other matters to be dealt with during the course of this reference, and at a later date. Notes: 1 Fourth Programme dated September 1990. 2. The latter part is being dealt with by the Commission in its forthcoming Report on Assisted and Substituted Decision- Making.

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Cite as:
(File prepared 15 May 1998, Revised 13 January 1999, 5 May 2000)

http://www.cirp.org/library/legal/QLRC/