HELSINGIN SANOMAT, Helsinki, Finland, 13 February 2004.

Home - Friday 13.2.2004

Proposal for religious circumcisions in public hospitals ignites controversy

Working group wants to prevent complications from back-alley procedures

In spite of a recommendation made on Thursday by a working group of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health, there are no immediate plans at Finnish public hospitals to start religiously-motivated circumcisions of boys.

A number of hospitals in Finland have refused to perform such circumcisions, and say that they will not do so until legislation is passed that mandates such operations.

Even a law might not lead to much change; paediatric surgeons at the Helsinki University Central Hospital have said that they will continue to refuse to perform the procedure even if such a law is passed.

In its proposal the working group said that municipal hospitals should be required by law to perform circumcisions on young boys.

The proposal will be circulated among experts and interest groups for comment, and is to go before Parliament in the autumn.

There has been no increase in circumcisions at public hospitals even though the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health urged them to provide such services in a letter sent to Finland's university hospitals last year.

A number of hospitals will only perform the procedures for medical reasons.

"Some doctors have performed the operations privately", says Kristiina Stenman, a lawyer who had helped the working group.

"Some of the operations are performed by doctors visiting Finland. The situation has caused confusion especially in Uusimaa."

The issue arose in Kuopio in August 2001 when seven Muslim boys of different ages underwent circumcisions in their homes. All of the boys had to be treated for complications at the Kuopio University Hospital.

The African-born doctor who performed the operations was reprimanded over the incident, which led to demands that circumcisions be made available at public hospitals to avoid problems caused by botched procedures.

After the controversy, the Kuopio University Hospital decided to adhere to its policy of not circumcising. The Finnish Medical Association has come out against the procedure, and many Finnish hospitals concur.

Many religiously and culturally mandated circumcisions are performed at private hospitals, and some take place abroad.

Previously in HS International Edition:

> Prosecutor General defers move on Kuopio botched circumcision case (9.4.2003)

> Some hospitals sharply oppose religiously mandated circumcisions (25.3.2003)

> Finnish hospitals urged to perform circumcisions (24.3.203)

> Danger of botched home circumcisions a problem for low-income Muslim families (24.8.2001)

> Botched circumcisions send four boys to hospital in Kuopio 21.8.2001

Helsingin Sanomat

(File created 15 February 2004)