Nursing Times (U.K.), 27 November 1996:


Rodney Porter

American nurse-led pressure groups are calling on their UK
counterparts to boycott male-child circumcisions.

The Northern Ireland branch of No-Circ [sic], received charity
status this month.  Its founder, Linda Massey, is appealing to
midwives and health visitors to join the effort to end unnecessary
male circumcision.

She claims that side effects include scarring, bleeding,
curvature, impotence, loss of ejaculation and feelings of

Marilyn Milos, founder of the American No-Circ, told Nursing
Times: "Circumcision denies the rights of the child to bodily
integrity.  She claimed that when the campaign started in the USA
in 1984, around 90% of male infants were being circumcised.
within 10 years that figure had fallen to 59%.

"Nurses should have the choice to say no if they do not want to
be present when a child is being circumcised.  That's what we
have been campaigning for here," Ms Milos added.

The GP (sic) founder of the English branch of No-Circ, John
Warren, plans to lobby MPs for a change in the law.  He compares
male circumcision to female circumcision, which was outlawed in
1986 (sic).  Dr Warren sees it as genital mutilation and believes
it should be performed only with informed consent.  According to
Dr Warren, around 6% of male children are circumcised in the UK -
compared to about 1% in the rest of Europe.

He added that nurses should be able to give information to
parents who ask about the procedure and make them aware of that
it could cause irreparable damage.

Sara Barnett, a member of the Jewish Nurses and Midwives'
Association, said any problems were due to "individual men and
not as a result of circumcision".

RCN community health adviser Lynn Young said "this is a delicate
matter because of the professional and cultural beliefs that
accompany the matter."

[Letters in reply:]

Nursing Times[U.K.] Vol. 93, No 1, Jan 1, 1997


Sara Barnett us tells that the problems of circumcision are
caused by "individual men".  Perhaps she would like to help
identify that minority of men who are doing circumcisions and
stop them from perpetuating the practice.  Then the problems
would be solved.

Seriously however, I am aware that Barnett is not referring to
the fact that the majority of circumcisions are done by a
minority of male doctors.  Rather she is seeking to blame the
victim.  I myself have suffered this outmoded, unnecessary- and
harmful- treatment and can vouch for the feelings of violation
to which Linda Massey refers.  As such I find Barnett's remark
deeply offensive.

Most circumcised men undoubtedly make no complaint about their
mutilation just as most raped women do not report their assault
to the police.  The same processes of shame, denial and
rationalisation underlie both failures of reporting.  What would
be our reaction to a high court judge saying that the problems
of raped women were due to "individual women and not as a result
of rape"?

Professional people have a duty to put their cultural beliefs
behind them where those beliefs may cause harm to defenceless
children in their care.

Yours faithfully

John D Dalton


Dr John Warren is the founder of NORM UK <and not No-Circ> which
is an organisation as much concerned with providing support and
information to circumcised men as it is to campaigning  to stop
non-therapeutic circumcisions;  he is a consultant physician and
not a GP.

The word 'mutilation' is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary
as 'The action of rendering (a thing) imperfect by excision or
destruction of one or more of its parts and by Stedmans Medical
Dictionary  as Disfigurement or injury by removal or destruction
of any conspicuous or essential part of the body.

Further, Sara Barnett's reported comment that "problems were due
to 'individual men and not circumcision'" was as offensive as it
was ignorant:  this mutilating amputation is, as many studies
have shown, painful, risky and produces inevitable damage.

Pain: There is no doubt that circumcisions are painful for the
baby. Indeed, circumcision has become a model for the analysis of
pain and stress responses in the newborn".[1]

Risk: Patel [2]found serious complications in 24 per cent of

Damage: the prepuce is highly functional, whereas the glans, even
before the losses of keratinisation in the circumcised lacks
sensitivity; Taylor found [3] "The prepuce provides a large and
important platform for several nerves and nerve endings.  The
innervation of the outer skin of the prepuce is impressive;  its
sensitivity to light touch and pain are similar to that of the
skin of the penis as a whole.  The glans, by contrast, is
insensitive to light touch, heat, cold and, as far as the authors
are aware, to pin-prick.  Le Gros Clark noted that the glans
penis is one of the few areas on the body that enjoys nothing
beyond primitive sensory modalities.

Lynn Young's reported comment that circumcision "is a delicate
matter because of the professional and cultural beliefs" is hard
to construe.  What 'professional beliefs' affect the proposed ban
on non-therapeutic circumcisions?  Further, as both international
law[4] and national law[5] make clear, cultural beliefs do not
authorise the infliction of harm on an unconsenting child;
non-therapeutic circumcision creates both criminal and civil liability.

It is high time that the medical and nursing professions stopped
mouthing the unscientific and wholly discredited myths about
circumcision, and took the trouble to read the extensive
literature, of which my footnotes are but a tiny sample, as to
the inevitable harm circumcision causes.

Christopher Price MA (Oxon)
Honorary Legal Adviser to NORM UK

[1] H.J. Stang et al, Local anesthesia for neonatal circumcision.
    Journal of the American Medical Association 259: 1507-11,
    1988;  see also Taddio A, Goldbach M, Ipp M, Stevens B, Koren
    G.  Effect of neonatal circumcision on pain responses during
    vaccination in boys. Lancet 1995; 345: 291 2.

[2] H. Patel, The problem of routine circumcision, Canadian
    Medical Association Journal 95: 576-81, 1966;  see also
    Williams N and Kapila L, Complications of Circumcision.  Br.
    J. Surg  1993, Vol 80, Oct, 1231-1236

[3] Taylor R, Lockwood AP and Taylor AJ:  The prepuce: specialized mucosa
    of the penis and its loss to circumcision.  Br. J. Urol (1996) 77,

[4] e.g Arts 8 and 9 European Convention on Human Rights; and the
    UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.

[5] Children Act 1989.

(File revised 25 November 2003)