IRELAND.COM, Dublin, Saturday, 23 August 2003.

Surgeon calls for ban on hospital circumcisions Saturday, 23rd August, 2003

A Dublin surgeon and male circumcision expert has said that the procedure should be banned in Irish hospitals.

Describing the procedure as "a mutilation", Dr Matt McHugh said he believed circumcision had no medical justification and exposed patients to various risks. He believed circumcision should "be banned" from all Irish hospitals, despite the cultural requirements of ethnic minorities.

Dr McHugh wrote an influential paper in 1981 in the Irish Medical Journal, advising against the procedure.

Circumcision has previously been carried out for medical purposes to address phimosis, a tightening of the foreskin. However, according to Dr McHugh, a "simple dorsal slit" in the foreskin is sufficient to cure the problem.

"What I'm saying here and now is that circumcision is a procedure that should never be performed," he said. "Basically, circumcision can be a dangerous procedure, it can have complications," he said. "It involves a general anaesthetic.

It's disfiguring and basically you're removing something that shouldn't be removed." The end of the penis "is exposed to all sorts of trauma", according to Dr McHugh. "The foreskin is not useless, it has a function, and the function is to protect the glans of the penis."

He said he believed cultural reasons, such as in those in the Jewish and Islamic faiths where infant boys are circumcised, were not sufficient.

"I am a medical man, I am not a religious expert, but I find it absolutely incredible circumcision can be initiated for some obscure religious belief." He said he would never perform the procedure for non-medical reasons. "That's out of the question. I think most of my colleagues wouldn't either."

He said he agreed with the current policy in place in the south-east region, where hospitals refuse to carry out the procedure.

"Certainly I am not going to do it, I don't care what they want. I'm not going to mutilate any children. If they come to this country they should be educated about the medical complications associated with circumcision. I feel it is unacceptable that this procedure be carried out for any reason, including religious belief."

Dr McHugh's comments contrast with a 2001 report on pregnancy services for asylum-seekers and refugees. The report, commissioned by the Eastern Regional Health Authority, recommended a review of policy in relation to circumcision at maternity hospitals.

According to one of the authors of the study, Dr Jo Murphy Lawless of the Department of Social Policy in UCD, research carried out for the study found access to the procedure to be one of the areas of concern for many women from ethnic minorities.

"We got a strong sense on the ground that there is a demand for it and we needed to put it in place. It was a demand that clearly had to be responded to."

According to Dr Murphy Lawless, there has been no significant change in policy towards circumcision in Irish maternity hospitals. In its ethical guidelines on male circumcision, the British Medical Association said it had no policy on the medical benefits or risks associated with non-medical male circumcision.

[CIRP Note: The original of this document is located at]

(File revised 23 June 2004)