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


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5. THE PREPUCE (a) Function of Prepuce Dr Douglas Gairdner49 has described how the prepuce and glans50 develop from the same block of tissue before birth and are still in the course of developing at birth. At birth, there is a common layer of squamous epithelium51 between the glans and the deep surface of the prepuce, and this explains why 96% of male infants have a non-retractile prepuce. The prepuce gradually becomes detached from the glans and retractable over it. In 90% of boys this process is completed by the age of 5 years. In the first two years of life the prepuce functions to protect the glans and especially the urinary opening (meatus), from the effects of `nappy rash' (ammoniacal dermatitis) and protects the glans from irritation and faecal material. The prepuce is one of the most sensitive parts of the penis and is said to enhance sensation during sexual intercourse.52 [CIRP Note: Subsequent to the publication of this QLRC Research Paper, pathologist JR Taylor and colleagues reported the results of his research into the nature of the prepuce. They reported impressively innervated and vascularized areas suggestive of a sensory organ of the first magnitude. The nature of these structures suggested that these areas play an important role in human sexual response. Their findings were published in the British Journal of Urology, Volume 77 No. 2, pp. 291-295 (February 1996). In addition, see Christopher J. Cold and John R. Taylor: The Prepuce British Journal of Urology, (January)1999, Suppl 1; 83: 34-35.] (b) Removal of Prepuce With the removal of the prepuce the exposed glans develops dermal layers up to twelve times the skin thickness. This has been described as the formation of a cornified layer - an additional outer covering of compressed, dead cells. Due to this scarification process, circumcision may render the penis less sensitive.[53] Notes: 49 Gairdner D. The Fate of the Foreskin British Medical Journal Vol 2 (1949) 1433-1443. Subsequent to Dr Gairdner's article the British National Health Service discontinued payment for circumcision and the practiece diminished greatly. 50 The glans penis is the terminal end of the penis. 51 Scale-like closely-packed sheet of cells. 52 Little KET. Circumcision: pros and cons Modern Medicine (1992), 37 at 40; Sorrells ML. Still More Criticism Paediatrics Vol 56 (1979) 339; Black JS. Circumcision Patient Management (1992), 70 at 71. 53 Ibid.

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Cite as:
(File prepared 23 May 1998, Revised 13 January 1999, 5 May 2000)

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