SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Tueday, 13 April 2004.

Section: News And Features
Page: 4

Circumcision myths

The Australian Press Council has dismissed a complaint by Professor Brian Morris against the Good Weekend magazine, published by The Sydney Morning Herald, over a column by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. Professor Morris's complaint centred on a regular short column, Mythconceptions, in which Dr Kruszelnicki writes about 400 words on many different subjects which fall into the category of ``life's myths, curiosities and absurdities.''

In particular, Professor Morris complained about a column on circumcision, May the foreskin be with you, published on January 7, 2004, describing it as ``a mischievous anti-circumcision article'' and ``blatantly biased propaganda.''

He said Dr Kruszelnicki was ``deliberately deceptive'' in not mentioning any of the health benefits of circumcision and criticised one of Dr Kruszelnicki's sources as an ``anti-circ activist'' and a ``hero of the anti movement'' who did not have appropriate medical qualifications.

In response, Dr Kruszelnicki, who acknowledged that he is not a urologist, pointed out that his column did not set out to discuss in detail the pros and cons of circumcision but rather discussed specifically what he saw as ``the myth'' that circumcision was originally performed for hygiene reasons and how this belief later evolved.

Dr Kruszelnicki named four sources, including the one objected to by Professor Morris.

In relation to the latter, Dr Kruszelnicki pointed out he quoted just eight words from that source: the foreskin is ``a uniquely specialised, sensitive, functional organ of touch".

The Press Council noted that Good Weekend offered Professor Morris an opportunity to air his views by publishing his letter to the editor on January 31.

However, Professor Morris also believed that Good Weekend magazine, in later publishing three letters opposing the views in his letter, demonstrated editorial bias.

Given the nature of the Mythconceptions column and the fact that Good Weekend published Professor Morris's letter, the Press Council said it believed the publication had adequately dealt with the matter.

(File created 23 April 2004)