In 2010, an organisation calling itself the ‘Circumcision Foundation of Australia’ (CFA) was established, with its sole aim being to reverse the dramatic decline in the number of circumcisions that are performed in Australia. The CFA presents itself as being a group of credible, well educated ‘public health advocates’ but its stance puts it severely at odds with conventional wisdom on this issue. In fact, as The Age recently reported, ‘no authoritative health policy maker in any jurisdiction with a frequency of relevant health conditions as low as that in Australia recommends circumcision as an individual or public health measure’. Anyone who takes a closer look at the activities and associations of some of this lobby group’s members will therefore surely ask themselves the following question: ‘What are the real motivations of the CFA?’
In the interests of transparency and public awareness, we at the ‘Intactivists of Australasia’ have compiled the following dossier on the key members of the CFA.
BRIAN J MORRIS:
Morris was a founding member of ‘The Gilgal Society’, a UK based pro-circumcision organisation. Until recently, that group was led by Vernon Quaintance, who was found guilty of possessing child pornography (including images of males under the age of 16) earlier this year. As of today, Morris’s personal pro-circumcision website still contains a link to ‘a list of possible circumcisers’ which features the Gilgal Society name and logo. Morris also has a poem written by Quaintance in the ‘circumcision humour’ section of his site. The same page also features a photo of a young boy with his penis trapped inside a mobile phone.
In December 2011, Morris was directed by his employer, the University of Sydney, to remove his site from their servers. Morris subsequently moved that site to another server but, curiously, a ‘whois’ search reveals that the CFA website is being hosted by University of Sydney servers.
Morris is clearly very sensitive about any criticism of his long-standing advocacy in favour of circumcision. When the international whistleblower organisation ‘Circleaks’ published details of his activities, Morris attempted to suppress it by creating a user account, which he subsequently used to delete the entire contents of the page. That attempt failed and the information revealed by Circleaks remains publicly available.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Morris’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?
Russell is the President of the CFA. He is also 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 counseling 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.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Russell’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?
Wodak has regularly relied upon heavily criticised studies on HIV/AIDS in Africa to support his view that circumcision should be used as a frontline defense against the disease in Australia. His views on this matter lie in stark contrast with those of Australia’s peak medical body, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which has stated that it ‘does not believe the African data can be directly extrapolated to the Australian or New Zealand circumstance’. In addition to that, Wodak, of all peope, would surely be aware of the fact that the decline in the number of HIV infections being reported in Australia since the 1980’s has occurred concurrently with a steep decline in the number of infant circumcisions being performed.
A Google search reveals that Wodak has made many statements extolling the virtues of circumcision but only one quote could be found in which he promotes the use of condoms (and he mentions circumcision in that statement too). This appears somewhat bizarre, given that the effectiveness of condoms in the prevention of HIV/AIDS is not in dispute, whereas the effectiveness of circumcision remains a matter of great controversy.
Wodak has not made his religious or cultural background public. He is, of course, under no obligation to do so (and nor should he be). It is known however that Australia’s Jewish community claims Wodak as one of their own and that he has participated in at least one public forum hosted by Melbourne’s Jewish community.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Wodak’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?
In January 2011, The Herald Sun reported that Dilley performs ‘up to 40 circumcisions a week’. Respondents in online forums (including the ‘Huggies’ website) have claimed that Dilley receives a fee of up to $600 for each circumcision that he performs.
Dilley clearly derives a significant amount of income from a business model which is heavily reliant upon his ability to entice customers (parents) who will pay him to circumcise their sons. As such, Dilley has a significant financial vested interest in the promotion of circumcision.
Interestingly, Dilley’s website confirms that he, like Terence Russell, has a particular interest in performing tongue-tie surgery.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Dilley’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?
The independent Australian whistleblower organisation ‘Crikey’ has Lowy on its ‘Register of Influence’, which seeks to ‘identify some of the associations between key opinion leaders and industry marketing or disease-awareness campaigns’. Lowy, who is a ‘sexual health physician’ is also a board member of ‘Impotence Australia’, an organisation which receives its funding from the makers of the three most popular anti-impotence drugs (Viagra, Levitra and Cialis). Recent studies have been published which indicate a probable link between circumcision and impotence.
Crikey does not allege any impropriety by Lowy. It invites those listed on the register to provide a response. Thus far, Lowy has declined to do so.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Lowy’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?
ROBIN J WILLCOURT:
In 1999, Willcourt was found guilty of disorderly conduct, whilst practicing as a Gynecologist/Obstetrician in the USA. The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) subsequently found that the offense constituted ‘a crime involving moral turpitude’ and ordered him to pay $4,055.35 ‘for costs involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case against him’. It also required him to perform 20 hours of ‘uncompensated public service’. The exact details of the offence committed by Willcourt are not known however, during its deliberations, one of the members of the NBME said the following about Willcourt’s explanation of the incident: ‘just imagine you’re there in the bushes and you’re taking a leak and somebody comes up behind you and starts talking dirty and you produce an erect penis. I don’t think I buy that. I think that is inconsistent physiologically. That’s one of the biggest holes I see in this case.’ Another said ‘I have a very difficult time believing this sequence of events and his explanation for it’.
Like Lowy, Mindel is named on Crikey’s ‘Register of Influence’. Mindel is a Professor of Sexual Health Medicine at the University of Sydney. He is also a board member of the ‘The Australian Herpes Management Forum’, which receives funding from several large drug companies, principally Novartis. As with Lowy, Mindel has declined to respond to Crikey’s listing on the register.
KAREN A DUGGAN
Duggan is a Sydney based Nephrologist (renal specialist). She is listed as a co-author of the CFA’s defining document, ‘Infant male circumcision: An evidence based policy statement’.
In its discussion of urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and renal disease, the CFA document 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. The CFA 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 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 Duggan and indeed of all of the authors of the CFA document.
Given all of the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is the CFA’s promotion of circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else?