European docs criticize US support for circumcision

New journal article dismisses 2012 study as weakened by ‘cultural bias’

JTA — Thirty-eight physicians from Europe wrote a paper alleging that “cultural bias” was behind the pro-circumcision stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The commentary, published Monday on the website of the US-based Pediatrics journal, disputes a report by the academy last August that “benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.”

The European reply, titled “Cultural Bias in the AAP’s 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision,” says that “seen from the outside, cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious. The report’s conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world.”

In the academy’s report, the benefits attributed to circumcision — including protection against HIV, genital herpes, genital warts and penile cancer — are “questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves,” the European authors wrote.

A large percentage of non-Jewish males in the United States are circumcised, whereas in Europe the custom is limited almost exclusively to Jews and Muslims.

The European physicians found only one argument put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics to have “some theoretical relevance”: the possible protection circumcision offers against urinary tract infections in infant boys. But, they wrote, this “can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss.”

Approximately half of the European physicians are from Scandinavian countries, where several political parties have stated their opposition to circumcision as a form of “child abuse” or an unwanted phenomenon of immigration by Muslims.

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