The following inherent risks are iatrogenic (doctor induced), and result directly from the neonatal circumcision surgery.1,2 As noted earlier, Williams and Kapila estimate that a realistic rate of complications from neonatal circumcision ranges from 2% to 10%. To many men who become aware of the function and value of the prepuce, the fact that this genital sensory organ was amputated from them at birth is itself a complication of circumcision; in which case, the actual complication rate is 100%.
Of particular note here is that while these complications can be apparent immediately or over the short-term, almost every one of these affects the male to some degree for a lifetime and can therefore be classified as long-term harm as well.
This list of complications may be of little immediate concern to the reader or even to the circumcisers who perform such surgeries. Given the number of circumcisions performed just in the past 50 years however, and from the view of men whose genitals bear evidence of these complications, the impact is enormous. As was acknowledged earlier in this report, penile complications resulting from neonatal circumcision are underreported and ignored. As stated earlier in this report, a conservative estimate of the incidence of physical complications among males born from 1940 to 1990 ranges from 1.3 million to almost 6.6 million. It must also be reiterated that these figures do not include subsequent sexual or psychological complications manifesting later in life.
Additionally, the most common complications of serious hemorrhage (2%) and infection (up to 10%) can have mild to severe long-term effects when they lead to secondary blood, brain, and nervous system disorders that are rarely reported as complications resulting from infant circumcision.
The consequences of hemorrhage were dramatically highlighted in the 1993 case of Demetrius Manker, a 6-month old Carol City, FL boy. As reported in the June 26, 1993 edition of "The Miami Herald", Demetrius was circumcised by pediatrician Robert D. Young and sent home. Demetrius' mother, Louse Manker, later noticed he was bleeding from the incision and called the doctor several times and a hospital once. "She followed the doctor's instructions to the letter," according to her attorney Patrick Cordero. The bleeding continued and paramedics were called, but Demetrius was pronounced dead at the hospital. "I can't express the way it has affected me emotionally," said the child's mother. "It's something I'll never get over."3
The serious consequences of infection were highlighted in a recent case, which is still ongoing. "John Doe" was born in Alaska in 1986. He was circumcised at birth and developed complications. The parents assert that the non-necessity of circumcision was never explained to them, nor were the surgical risks detailed. For "John Doe" the resulting damage from the "small risk of infection," as many physicians typically phrase it, has become a life-long ordeal, an ordeal brought into his young life by a surgery that was not necessary and to which he did not consent.
In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court for the State of Alaska, August 28, 1987, parents claim that circumcision constitutes an assault and battery upon their son's body. The baby's wound became infected by bacteria while he was in the hospital. He was returned to the hospital for treatment of the acute infection, developed toxic shock, which led to seizures, and was improperly treated. The baby sustained profound brain damage, retardation, palsy, lack of brain growth, damage to his vision and other related damages. To add to the horror of the story, the boy was born with a condition that requires circumcision not be done. The parents say he would not have been circumcised had they been told the surgery is not necessary, causes pain, and has risks.4
The hospital where this tragedy occurred claims to have "lost" the medical records for the child. The suit in Superior Court was subsequently lost and no damages were awarded to the family. In a follow-up letter to NOCIRC dated June 25, 1989, one of the parents of "John Doe" wrote:
It's so hard for me to put my thoughts down, just tell your readers the truth. Our son will grow up to be a man in a wheelchair, he is blind, he may never speak, he may never say "Mommy, Daddy," or "I Love you."5
"John Doe" is now eight years old. Oral arguments were heard in January of 1994 in the Supreme Court of Alaska to appeal the earlier Superior Court ruling. A decision is expected within a year.
In 1993, just prior to Demetrius Manker's death of circumcision-related hemorrhage, another unidentified boy from California suffered circumcision complications. Little is known about this case because neonatal circumcision complications are rarely covered by the media and are most likely settled out of court in favor of the child and his parents. What is known is that in May of 1993 a newborn lost the tip of his penis while being circumcised at Marin General Hospital, north of San Francisco, and that the child was rushed to the University of California/San Francisco Medical Center for reattachment surgery. According to a July 8, 1993 article in the "Bay Area Reporter" by David O'Connor, "Hospital spokesperson Nancy Nickel said there was a circumcision complication and it is under review but she would not comment further. UCSF Medical Center spokesperson Andy Evangelista said he could not confirm whether the infant was treated at the hospital. He said it is common for the hospital to perform operations on infants' genitalia, including operations to correct botched circumcisions."
Whether the complication is death from serious hemorrhage, an infection-related tragedy, or mutilation to various degrees, all of these are long-term effects. For males fortunate enough to survive the surgery without immediate complications, there is a growing awareness among men of other delayed, long-term consequences of neonatal circumcision, which are only now beginning to be documented. In addition to a host of psychological effects documented later in this report, preliminary findings from the "Awakenings" survey indicate the following physical effects:
From Awakenings: A Preliminary Poll of Circumcised Men, NOHARMM, P.O. Box 460795, San Francisco, CA 94146.
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