Male Circumcision: A Social and Medical Misconception

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Male Circumcision: A Social and Medical Misconception

University of Johns Hopkins



Male circumcision is defined as a surgical procedure in which the prepuce of the penis is separated from the glands and excised. (Mosby, 1986) Dating as far back as 2800 BC, circumcision has been performed as a part of religious ceremony, as a puberty or premarital rite, as a disciplinary measure, as a reprieve against the toxic effects of vaginal blood, and as a mark of slavery. (Milos & Macris, 1992) In the United States, advocacy of circumcision was perpetuated amid the Victorian belief that circumcision served as a remedy against the ills of masturbation and systemic disease. (Lund, 1990) The scientific community further reinforced these beliefs by reporting the incidence of hygiene-related urogenital disorders to be higher in uncircumcised men.

Circumcision is now a societal norm in the United States.

Routine circumcision is the most widely practiced pediatric surgery and an estimated one to one-and-a-half million newborns, or 80 to 90 percent of the population, are circumcised. (Lund, 1990) Despite these statistics, circumcision still remains a topic of great debate. The medical community is examining the need for a surgical procedure that is historically based on religious and cultural doctrine and not of medical necessity. Possible complications of circumcision include hemorrhage, infection, surgical trauma, and pain. (Gelbaum, 1992) Unless absolute medical indications exist, why should male infants be exposed to these risks? In essence, our society has perpetuated an unnecessary surgical procedure that permanently alters a normal, healthy body part.

This paper examines the literature surrounding the debate over circumcision, delineates the flaws that exist in the research, and discusses the nurse's role in the circumcision debate.

Review of Literature

Many studies performed...