Sir James Spence: On Circumcision

The Lancet, Volume 2: Page 902, 24 October 1964.

A CORRESPONDENT sends up a copy of a letter written in 1950 to a local doctor by the late Sir James Spence of Newcastle upon Tyne:

My Dear C.,

Your patient C.D., ætat 7 months, has the prepuce with which he was born. You ask me, with a note of persuasion in your question, if it should be excised. Am I to make this decision on scientific grounds, or am I to acquiesce in a ritual which took its origin at the behest of that arch-sanitarian, Moses?

If you can show good reason why a ritual designed to ease the penalties of concupiscence amidst the sand and flies of the Syrian deserts should be continued in this England of clean bed-linen and lesser opportunity, I shall listen to your argument; but if you base your argument on anatomical faults, then I must refute it. The anatomists have never studied the form and evolution of the preputial orifice. They do not understand that Nature does not intend it to be stretched and retracted in the Temples of the Welfare Centres or ritually removed in the precincts of the operating theatres. Retract the prepuce, and you see a pin point opening, but draw it forward and you see a channel wide enough for all the purposes for which the infant needs the organ at that early age.

What looks like a pin point opening at 7 months will become a wide channel of communication at 17.

Nature is a possessive mistress, and whatever mistakes she makes about the structure of the less essential organs such as the brain and stomach, in which she is not much interested, you can be sure that she knows best about the genital organs...

Sir James Spence


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