MAITLAND MERCURY, Maitland, New South Wales, Australia,
2 April 2003.

Neonatal procedure suspended

Emma Swain
Wednesday, 2 April 2003

Hunter Health has ceased routine neonatal circumcision within its hospitals following a Royal Australasian College of Physicians recommendation.

In its position statement on circumcision, the college stated that it had revised its policy following 'critical literature analysis' by a working party of representatives from a number of professional organisations including paediatricians, paediatric surgeons, general surgeons and urologists from Australia and New Zealand.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians' division of paediatrics and child health has concluded that where no medical indication for circumcision exists, the procedure is best performed under general anaesthetic after the age of six months to reduce the risks and the discomfort for the child.

Until recently, circumcision of newborn baby boys was available at Cessnock and Belmont hospitals.

Hunter Health Area director of child health services professor Trish Davidson said about 250 babies were circumcised in the Hunter each year and the majority of these babies were aged under six months and were performed for social rather than medical reasons.

"Following the College of Physicians' declaration, we have acted quickly and prudently to stop newborn circumcisions in Hunter public hospitals," professor Davidson said.

"There are some individuals and cultures who favour the circumcision of male babies and the procedure is still available for babies more than six months old. Parents need to ask their GP for a referral to an appropriate surgeon."

While some health benefits have been claimed for circumcision, this review of the literature shows no evidence of benefits outweighing harm for circumcision as a routine procedure.

The complication rate of neonatal circumcision is reported to be about one per cent to five per cent and ranges from minor bleeding and infection to damage to the genitalia or, rarely, septicaemia or even death.

(File revised 6 April 2003)