Dr Andrew Rochford gets closer to the truth on circumcision

Dr Andrew Rochford on circumcisionLast month, Australian doctor, TV medical commentator and former ‘The Block’ winner Dr Andrew Rochford presented a report on circumcision on Channel 7’s news ‘The Healthy Truth’ segment, which was also packaged as a story on ‘Today Tonight’ in Adelaide.

The sentiments expressed in this latest report were significantly different to those expressed in Dr Rochford’s piece on circumcision on Channel 10’s ‘The Project’ in 2010.

This earlier report was in response to the publication of a journal article which suggested that circumcision should be promoted to lower the rate of HIV transmission in Australia. Much of the TV report showed the doctor repeating the opinions expressed by others, with most statements prefaced with phrases such as ‘some people believe’ or ‘some experts claim’.

Comments on the report on the station’s website and social media sites quickly highlighted the fallacies in many of those opinions, including the following:

- A number of issues with the African clinical trials which were used to support the claims in the journal article.

- Langerhan cells do not only exist in the foreskin.

-  A non-retractile foreskin is normal at birth and remains common until after puberty.

- The questionable credibility of the the authors Alex Wodak and Brian Morris.

- The absurdity of the ‘looking like Dad‘ reason.

- The lack of any discussion on ethical considerations.

This latest Channel 7 report showed a more confident and mature Doctor Rochford, who was unafraid to express his own thoughts, which in general were more strongly against the procedure. It may be that the feedback from the earlier report has shaped his opinion since then, or he may be reflecting the more recent public sentiments on circumcision, which has shifted away from the procedure, possibly due to more recent emphasis on ethical and bodily autonomy considerations.Dr Andrew Rochford on Circumcision Consent

While it’s disappointing that the Australian mainstream media is yet to highlight the functions of the foreskin, we applaud and thank Dr Rochford for bringing the ethical issues to the forefront, and bringing the Australian public one step closer to the truth on circumcision.

New intactivist website launched in Australia

IntactAus1We would like to congratulate our friends at ‘Intact Australia’, who launched their brand new website on August 1st 2014. ‘Intact Australia’ is a grass-roots organisation which has similar goals to those of us here at ‘Intactivists of Australasia’. Their mission statement quite rightly points out that ‘all human beings, regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity, size, background, family, or ability to defend themselves, come into this world with the basic human right to genital autonomy’. The ‘Intact Australia’ website is full of great information and resources including ‘intact care’, ‘functions of the foreskin’ and a ‘history of circumcision in Australia’. ‘Intact Australia’ are also seeking to create a list of ‘intact-friendly’ doctors across the country. We wish them all the best for their new venture and thank them so much for the work that they are doing to raise awareness about this important human rights issue. Click here to visit the ‘Intact Australia’ website.

New petition demands government action on male circumcision

Intact2Intactivists of Australasia have launched a new petition on change.org which calls for Australian governments (at all levels) to take action to prevent the non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors. Click here to sign the petition and show your support for this important human rights cause. If we reach our target of 100 signatures, the petition will be forwarded to all Federal, State and Territory health ministers. The timing of this petition is important, since the Federal Government is currently undertaking a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

The Intactivists of Australasia petition reads as follows:

It is important that Australian Federal and State Departments of Health support the human rights of all people, regardless of their age or sex. Infant Male Genital Cutting (IMGC or “circumcision”) raises human rights issues. Many men hate that it was done to them before they could resist. Its medical benefits are highly debatable – slight reductions in rare and/or late onset diseases that can be better prevented by other means and/or treated as they occur. In the 1950s, IMGC was nearly universal in Australia and is now done to fewer than one boy in 8. Over the generation that this has happened, men’s health has improved and none of the ailments for which it was supposed to be effective have shown any significant increase.

No national medical association in the world (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends IMGC, but the AAP’s position was so ambivalent and culturally biased, 38 paediatricians (heads and spokespeople for the paediatric associations of Austria, Britain, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and senior paediatricians in Canada, the Czech Republic, France and Poland) were prompted to write a rebuttal to the AAP journal “Pediatrics” (1) which concluded that:

“There is growing consensus among physicians, including those in the United States, that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys because non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys in Western societies has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm”.

Resources:

1. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/…/12/peds.2012-2896

2. http://www.circinfo.org/Medicare_circumcision_review.html

Recommendations:

1. Withdraw any support for non-therapeutic infant genital surgery (including circumcisions done for “cultural reasons”) from all medical facilities in the Federal and State Departments of Health’s charge.

2. Ensure that the non-therapeutic circumcision of minors is not included in Medicare rebates.

3. Ensure that medical students in all teaching hospitals and medical schools are appraised on the structure and functions of the foreskin, and on proper care of normal boys, especially the avoidance of premature forcible foreskin retraction and unnecessary circumcision.

Minority Reporter: How Brian Morris fought a personal war against the human foreskin (and how he lost)

white_flagBrian Morris, who is a Professor of molecular biology at the University of Sydney, has spent much of his adult life attempting to defend the practice of routine infant circumcision. He has, in essence, fought a personal war against a normal part of the human anatomy (the male foreskin). Morris has utilised a wide range of tactics in order to prosecute his case in relation to this issue. He has mastered the art of optimising media opportunities to promulgate his views on the subject. He has also surrounded himself with like-minded individuals, whom he has hoped would provide credible support for his war against the foreskin. Morris and his allies have attempted to harness scientific research in order to underpin their opinions and they have been unrelenting in their attempts at discrediting those who express views that contradict their own. Despite his dedication and persistence, the evidence provided below demonstrates quite clearly that Morris has lost the battle. The ‘courts’ of science, medicine and (perhaps most importantly) public opinion have ruled against him.

Public visibility has been a major weapon in Brian Morris’ war against the foreskin. He has used his ‘status’ as a professor with great efficiency in this regard. Every notable story/article about circumcision that has appeared in the mainstream Australian media over the last few years has featured Morris. His recent television appearances include segments on the Nine Network’s ’60 Minutes’, the Seven Network’s ‘Sunday Night’ and SBS’s ‘Insight’. In addition, to the best knowledge of this author, Morris has also been quoted in every mainstream Australian print media article on the subject of circumcision in recent times. Morris has benefited from the fact that all mainstream media outlets attempt to set up a ‘polemic’ debate about seemingly controversial issues. It might, therefore, appear to some that Morris’ media war against the foreskin has been a success but public responses to his input tell a different story. In every relevant forum, the overwhelming majority of commentators have been scathing of him and his position. It is therefore that Morris’ mainstream media war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has also been very proactive in using internet weaponry in his war against the foreskin. In the first instance he created a website called ‘CircInfo.net’. That site is still active and contains nothing other than pro-circumcision propaganda. Until recently, ‘CircInfo’ contained an entire page devoted to tasteless ‘circumcision humour’, which included a photo of an underage boy with his penis trapped inside a mobile phone. There was clearly no educational value that image, which leads this author to question Morris’ motivation in posting it. ‘CircInfo’ was originally hosted on University of Sydney servers but, after a complaint from a member of the public about a conflict of interest, Morris was ordered by his employer to move it to another server.

Morris continues to use that site (and the internet in general) to try and discredit those who speak out against his war against the foreskin.  ‘CircInfo’ has a whole page devoted to this endeavour. There are many misrepresentations and much misinformation offered on that page. When one assesses the character of some of Morris’ own associates (see below) it would appear to be quite hypocritical for him to attempt to discredit the entire anti-circumcision movement on the basis of ‘guilt by association’. Morris has even gone so far as to attempt to discredit the profession of paediatrics. He claims on his website that ‘most paediatricians are well-intentioned. However, clearly this specialty would attract male medical graduates with a sexual predilection for children’. Aside from the fact that such a comment reeks of a smear campaign, there seems to be something grossly incongruous about the fact that, on one hand, Morris has sought to denigrate paediatricians, whilst on the other hand, he has since put his name to a statement which congratulated the American Association of Pediatricians for issuing a statement which alleged that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweighed the risks. It is, therefore, apparent that Morris is a cynical opportunist of the highest order.

Another example of Morris’ ruthless attempts at discrediting those who oppose him occurred in 2004, when respected scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki published a short article titled ‘May the foreskin be with you’. Morris objected to  Kruszelnicki’s highlighting of the fact that the foreskin is ‘a uniquely specialised, sensitive, functional organ of touch’ and accused him of promulgating ‘blatantly biased propaganda’. Morris’ hypocrisy in this instance was breath-taking, given the one-sided nature of his own web site. Morris lodged an official complaint with The Australian Press Council but it was dismissed in its entirety. Given all of the above, it is clear that Morris’ propaganda war against his opponents has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has fought his war against the foreskin under the banner of ‘an evidence based appraisal’. Clearly however, his use of scientific studies to support his argument in favour of circumcision has failed the credibility test in two hugely important regards. First, Morris has only ever referred to studies which purport to give credibility to his position (most of which are authored or co-authored by Morris himself). There is no impartiality or balance in Morris’ so-called ‘appraisal’. No acknowledgement is given to the massive amount of credible literature which calls Morris’ position into question. Furthermore, Morris has not met the professional standards required in order be regarded as an expert on the issue of circumcision.

Morris has regularly used ‘sleight of hand’ in order to fudge statistics and other information to suit his argument. To provide just one example, Morris once co-authored an article which claimed that a UK study had found that ‘cumulative prevalence (of UTI’s) to age 16 was 3.6% in uncircumcised boys’, however the article in question actually made no reference at all to the circumcision status of the boys included in its study. That document also claimed that circumcision ‘protects against recurrence’ of UTI’s. It cited an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) as supporting evidence for that claim, however the JAMA article in question stated quite clearly that ‘the lack of circumcision documentation in 47% of male children limited our ability to accurately assess risk based on this important factor’. These serious misrepresentations of supporting evidence clearly call into question the credibility of Morris and the other authors of the article referred to here.

Morris and his views on circumcision are clearly out of step with the majority of medical professionals in Australia. The Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons describes neonatal circumcision as ‘inappropriate and unnecessary’. Furthermore, in 2012, the results of a poll released online by the ‘Australian Doctor’ revealed that only 2% of those surveyed supported the view that infant circumcision should be mandatory. Conversely, 51% of respondents ‘likened the procedure to child abuse’. Morris must therefore most certainly be regarded as a ‘minority reporter’. One observer has even gone so far as to aptly label him ‘Professor 2%’. It is clear that Morris’ pseudo-scientific war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has developed extensive networks with others who share his desire to fight a war against the foreskin. Clearly, his choices in this regard have often been less than ideal. Morris was previously closely associated with the UK based ‘Gilgal Society’. Until recently, the Gilgal Society was led by Vernon Quaintance. In 2012, Quaintance was found guilty of possessing child pornography (including images of males under the age of 16). In April 2013, Morris claimed on a Facebook page called ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ that he had ‘never met’ nor spoken to Quaintance however, curiously, he then went on to confirm that (quote) ‘Quaintance offered to assist in the production of professional quality brochures and that…(he)…accepted his offer’. Until shortly after Quaintance’s conviction those very brochures were available for download from Morris’ website and they carried the ‘Gilgal Society’ name and logo.

In 2010, Morris helped found an organisation known as the ‘Circumcision Foundation of Australia’. The President of CFA is Dr Terry Russell. Russell is the principal operator of ‘Circumcision Australia’, a small group of Doctors based in Brisbane and Melbourne who proudly claim that they have performed ‘over 30,500 circumcisions’ in the last 20 years. Russell himself has been performing circumcisions for more than 35 years. As such, Russell clearly has a significant financial vested interest in the promotion of circumcision. In 2004, Russell was reprimanded, ordered to repay $4,488.88 and to undergo counselling by the Professional Services Review (PSR), an independent Commonwealth body established to ‘protect the integrity of the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits schemes’. The PSR found that Russell ‘opportunistically diagnosed tongue-tie’ in patients referred to him for circumcisions. It found that 90% of such procedures performed by him (for which a Medicare rebate was claimed) were ‘inappropriate’ on the grounds that there were ‘no clinical indications for the services’ rendered.

In addition, Morris has co-authored ‘peer reviewed’ papers with others who have no relevant formal academic qualifications, most notably Jake Waskett. In April this year, Morris confirmed via the ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ Facebook page that Waskett is ‘an IT expert’ who ‘did not complete his degree’. Morris attempted to validate his association with Waskett by suggesting that he ‘has an academic level knowledge of the medical literature on male circumcision’. Despite Morris’ protestations, it is clear that Waskett is neither a doctor nor a scientist. As such, he is in no way qualified to contribute to publications which claim to possess mainstream medical or scientific credibility.

Ultimately, social and ethical issues are decided in the court of public opinion. In the case of Morris’ war against the foreskin, the jury has spoken loudly and clearly. In Australia, routine infant circumcision rates have been in dramatic freefall since the 1970’s. At that time, around 85% of boys were subjected to the practice but that figure has now fallen to around 15%. The practice is banned as elective surgery in public hospitals in most jurisdictions. This situation is mirrored in all other Western democracies. Circumcision is now firmly entrenched as a minority practice in all of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. Even in the United States (where circumcision has traditionally been most firmly entrenched as a cultural norm) the tide is turning. Routine circumcision now impacts upon less than 50% of the neo-natal male population in America and that number continues to fall. These statistics provide clear evidence that Morris’ public relations war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

On his own website, Morris makes the following observation: ‘Imagine holding a set position for years, a good portion of one’s life dedicated to that cause, only to find out the effort had little effect’. Ironically, that comment summarises Morris’ current position perfectly. He has fought a long, hard and sometimes dirty personal war against the human foreskin but, as the evidence provided above clearly shows, when judged against any relevant measure, Morris has lost the fight. It is, therefore, surely time for him to raise the white flag and officially surrender.

Footnote:  A screenshot of Morris’ comments on the ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ Facebook page is available upon request. To obtain a copy, send us an email via the ‘Contact Us’ page on this site.

How to tell if you live in a culture of genital cutting

simonharris100:

Are you perpetuating the genital cutting culture in Australia?

Take the test by answering the following questions.

Do you believe that girls should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have parts of their genitals cut?

Do you also believe that boys should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have parts of their genitals cut?

If you answered yes to the first question but no to the second, perhaps you are considering the issue with a gender bias.

Let’s try another set of questions:

Do you think that religious sensitivities should be respected when determining if Muslim parents should have the right to cut the genitals of their baby girls?

And do you also think that religious sensitivities should be respected when determining if Jewish parents should have the right to cut the genitals of their baby boys?

If you answered no to the first question but yes to the second, then perhaps you are looking at this issue with a religious bias.

And if after answering both sets of questions you have both a gender and religous bias towards genital cutting, then perhaps we do have a genital cutting culture in Australia.

Originally posted on stopthecutting:

I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to my first real attempt to explain to my family and friends and the world my very negative feelings about the fact that as a newborn, I was subjected to male genital mutilation (MGM).

Oddly enough, the most push back I’ve received has been from my own family. Maybe this is the first time that they’ve come to grips with the fact that their sons may grow up to feel that they were violated by MGM.

I sure hope that no one grows up to feel like they were violated, but I am not the first to feel this way about the fact that I was subjected to MGM, and until the practice is stopped, I will not be the last.

View original 1,423 more words

60 Minutes segment raises concerns that male circumcision is child sexual abuse

zscreaming babyThe Nine Network’s ‘60 Minutes’ program has tackled the issue of routine infant circumcision again (Sunday March 3rd, 2013). Participants in the segment included former Tasmanian Commissioner for Children, Paul Mason, who made the point that circumcision ‘is child abuse, it’s sexual abuse’ and Elwyn Moir, who highlighted the negative impacts that being subjected to genital cutting as an infant have had on his (and many other men’s) life. Presenting a pro-circumcision opinion (which directly contradicted the stance of Australia’s peak medical bodies) was Brian Morris. 60 Minutes has aired several segments on this issue in the past. Do you think that this latest installment sufficiently took into account the mounting evidence against infant circumcision as an ethical ‘surgical’ procedure?

Click on the link below to see a preview of the segment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_AHvKiKas8

Should Australians have the right to decide which parts of their genitals they keep?

Here is an outrageous idea. Or, at least, an idea that may seem foreign to many Australians. I believe that I should have the right to choose which parts of my genitals I keep and which parts I want to have sliced off and thrown into the medical waste bin.Circumcision consent

But it seems that many Australians don’t agree with me. Or that is what it seems when they support the act of pinning down an infant boy and cutting off part of his penis. Most call it circumcision, but I prefer to avoid this euphemism and call it what it really is: genital cutting, partial penis amputation, or even (brace yourselves) genital mutilation. ‘Oh no’ I hear you gasp. ‘It’s only mutilation if we do it to a girl, right? Even if its a tiny symbolic nick. If we cut off 30-50% of the penile skin, surely that can’t be called mutilation. And besides, we do it in Australia, and the Government pays for it through Medicare, so it can’t be mutilation. Can it?’

But what about the medical benefits? You can put forward an argument for amputating any body part based on the medical benefits of doing so. You could amputate a baby’s big toe to reduce the risk of ingrown toenails, or cut off their ears to reduce skin cancer. I challenge you to suggest one body part where there wouldn’t be a benefit in chopping it off (please suggest a body part as a comment below if you are up for the challenge). But with all these other body parts, the use of that part is considered, and medical ethics and plain old common sense prevail. The penis seems to be exempt from all of these concepts.

And by the way, even if there was any truth to these so-called medical benefits, most of them are related to sexually transmissible diseases, and I didn’t have sex when I was a baby. In fact I didn’t have my first serious sexual encounter unti l was 20. And my partner in this encounter has been my only partner and now wife for the last 12 years. I was hardly at risk of HIV or other STD’s which the pro-cutting crowd try desperately to prove are more prevalent in men who have all of their genitals. Besides, at the age of 20, even if I had decided to lead an ‘at risk’ lifestyle, I could have decided to either get myself circumcised for a marginal reduced risk at best, or wear a condom.

But getting back to my ‘outrageous’ statement. I wasn’t wasn’t given the right to choose for myself. And it seems that most Australians think that’s OK. Otherwise, like me they would be joining the intactivist movement and lobbying government to bring an end to the practice. But the most important thing they could do would be to simply stop cutting their babies. Most have, with rates now less than 1 in 5 and shrinking every year. But it seems that many who wouldn’t circumcise their own children will still support parents who decide to do it to theirs.

Maybe I am wrong. In this age of gender equality, self-determination and the growth of the human rights movement, perhaps Australians do support the concept of genital autonomy. Where do you stand?

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net