Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation attempts to hide the truth on circumcision

As I paced the hallways while waiting for my daughter to recover from her surgery at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, Sydney, I read a poster on the wall which outlined the hospital’s policies around its care for its patients.Deleting reference to circumcision

I was reassured to read a number of points in relation to the quality of care that the hospital promised. In particular, I was pleased to read a point which was highlighting the right of bodily autonomy. While I can’t remember the exact wording, I recall that it was something like this:

“Children’s bodies are their own.”

Infant circumcision for non-medical reasons was banned in NSW public hospitals in 2006, and as the Sydney Children’s Hospital is a public hospital there should be no non-therapeutic circumcisions being performed there. However, the doctors who practise there can easily bypass this ban by operating out of one of the private clinics surrounding the hospital. I wondered how many of these doctors walked past these posters every day, then walked over to a private clinic to perform this life-changing and damaging procedure on a non-consenting infant.

Nonetheless, I was pleased to read that the hospital seemed to understand the concept of bodily autonomy – that children owned their bodies, and that in the absence of a clear and immediate medical need, they should get to determine what happens to them.

So I was surprised to see that for the foundation’s Gold Telethon 2015 they would be promoting a story of a child rushed to the emergency department as a result of a procedure that is an assault on that autonomy – infant circumcision. Here is a screen shot from the foundation’s website on 5 March 2015:

EliMarch5-highlighted

While the exact timing is unclear, sometime before 23 April 2015 (according the the web archive), the foundation updated the page to remove any reference to the circumcision. This is how the page appeared from that date, and still appears at the time this post was published:

Eli28112015-highlighted

Note that the red underlines have been added to both screenshots to highlight the differences.

When approached for an explanation, a spokesperson for the foundation responded with “We updated the original story as we believed the detail to be irrelevant to the focus of our story – Eli and his treatment for Haemophilia”.

It appears to be unlikely that this reason alone is why the story was changed. In my experience, these types of articles are updated to correct important omissions or errors, or to remove details that are distracting to the story – not merely irrelevant.

The two other stories used to promote the 2015 Gold Telethon also contained information that could easily be determined as ‘irrelevant’. Why were those details not also removed?

The real reason for the revision is open to speculation. An obvious response to the unedited story would be to question why (in its own words) a ‘perfectly healthy baby’ was subjected to unnecessary surgery in the first place. I imagine it was easier for the foundation to sweep this distraction under the carpet rather than address the issue.

The other obvious unanswered questions are ‘who?’ and ‘where?’. It would be difficult for the foundation to claim how heroic the doctors at its hospitals were in treating the child if the situation they were treating was caused by an unnecessary surgery performed by one of its own doctors. Through its spokesperson, the foundation confirmed that the procedure was not carried out at either Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick or The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, but they did not respond to the question of whether it was performed at a private clinic by one the doctors who also practises at one of its hospitals.

Paul Mason, Chair of the Australasian Institute for Genital Autonomy, said “This report and the hospital’s suppression of a central fact about the case are deplorable. All across the world “adverse events” from unnecessary genital surgery on babies and children are shrouded in mystery. It is simply not possible for anyone to pretend that any “benefits” outweigh the obvious risks of these dangerous practices if the risks remained hidden and unknown. Parents are entitled to know the truth and the whole of the truth.”

I hope that in the lead up to the Gold Telethon 2016, the foundation chooses a better example of how the medical profession is helping, rather than hurting children.

Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anti-genital mutilation protester shut down at Oprah’s Adelaide show

An intactivist protester at Oprah Winfrey’s show in Adelaide tonight was apparently shut down by police only 2 minutes after arriving.

The man was objecting to Oprah Winfrey’s endorsements of a face cream derived from human foreskin.

A hand-written sign held up to crowds outside the Entertainment Centre read:oprahforeskin

“Foreskin Facecream Oprah’s Shame”

He was apparently threatened with arrest, although the police could not provide information on the details of the charge, so he was allowed to leave with his sign tossed onto the footpath.

We understand this was the first anti-genital mutilation protest to be held in Adelaide. A facebook post of the short-lived encounter has been met with support, and generated interest in organising a larger protest in the future.

LoveForeskincropped

 

 

Canadian Paediatric Society faces potential child sex scandal

In order to maintain a perception of credibility, so-called ‘peak’ medical authorities in any modern society must ensure that they observe the highest possible standards when they disseminate information to the general public. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has recently let itself down in this regard by referring to source material that was originally published by a person who is currently serving time in jail for multiple child sex and child pornography offences.

CanadianPScropped1

In September 2015, the CPS released an updated ‘position statement’ on the issue of newborn male circumcision. The document ultimately concluded that the CPS ‘does not recommend the routine circumcision of every newborn male’ however the CPS position statement listed a brochure called ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ as one of its selected resources. The primary author of that brochure was Brian Morris, a prominent Australian pro-circumcision campaigner. The brochure was originally published by ‘The Gilgal Society’, a UK-based organisation which was principally maintained by Vernon Quaintance,

MorrisGilgal1croppedUnderlinedPart1

In April 2013, during a discussion that occurred on a Facebook page called ‘Response to Ignorance’, Morris confirmed that he had engaged Quaintance’s services in the publication of the ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ brochure. Morris badly contradicted himself during that conversation. In the first instance, he claimed that (quote) ‘I have never met Quaintance…nor have I ever spoken to (him)’. He then went on to confirm that (quote) ‘Quaintance offered to assist in production of professional quality brochures and I accepted his offer’.

MorrisApril19th2013Underlined1

In April 2012, Quaintance was convicted of possessing child pornography. The ‘Croydon Advertiser’ reported that Quaintance had been found in possession of three video cassettes which contained seven to nine hours of ‘graphic footage of child abuse ranked at the second-highest level of severity’. The court found that  boys as young as 11 years old engaging in sex acts were discovered on the videos. The judge in that case sentenced Quaintance to a 40 week suspended jail sentence. In October 2014, Quaintance faced court again, this time on multiple serious child sex offences. It was revealed that Quaintance had ‘targeted young boys and asked them to expose themselves’. On this occasion he was jailed for 2 years and 4 months.

QuaintanceMerge1

After hearing of Quaintance’s first conviction on child sex offences, Brian Morris attempted to distance himself from Quaintance and ‘The Gilgal Society’. He changed the name of the publisher of the ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ brochure to simply ‘Brian Morris’. He also deleted every reference to Quaintance and Gilgal from his website. This action represented nothing more than a desperate and futile attempt at re-writing history. It represented hopeless and cynical brinkmanship at its finest.

MorrisGilgal1croppedUnderlinedPart2

Great care, consideration and research are required when official documents are produced and published by ‘statutory authorities’. Referencing documents prepared by Brian Morris can never be a good look for any organisation which purports to provide balanced information to the public on the issue of male circumcision. Over many years, Morris has built himself a strong reputation for disseminating one-sided, agenda-driven propaganda on the issue. Professor Basil Donovan, a sexual/public health expert from the University of Sydney, has stated that Morris publishes information which is ‘dangerous’ and ‘amounts to a serious disservice to parents’. What is much more damning in this case however is that the Canadian Paediatric Society has referred to a document which was originally published by a twice convicted child sex offender. As such, the CPS has proven itself to be (at the very least) utterly careless in the preparation of its latest ‘position statement’ on newborn male circumcision.

Image sources:

1. ‘Canadian Paediatric Society’.

http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/circumcision

2 and 6. ‘Circumstitions News’.

http://circumstitionsnews.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/sydney-brian-morris-fails-to-erase.html

3. ‘Response to Ignorance’ Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/responsetoignorance

4. ‘Croydon Advertiser’, April 21st, 2012.

http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Croydon-circumcision-campaigner-caught-child-porn/story-15866127-detail/story.html

5. ‘Croydon Advertiser’, October 3rd, 2013.

http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Upper-Norwood-circumcision-fetishist-jailed/story-23040107-detail/story.html

Did Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman get gender wrong in ‘female genital mutilation’ photo tweet?

GenitalCuttingMaleFemale

On 22 February this year Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman tweeted a photo in what has been largely interpreted as an attempt to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation, and to make a tenuous link between the practice and the proposed development of a mosque in her area.

The Councillor has been a vocal objector the mosque since a proposal for it’s development was approved by Bendigo City Council last June.

The tweet, which can be seen below, was in response to a tweet to her from a supporter of the proposal to build the mosque.

Male Genital Mutilation

If by tweeting this photo Councillor Chapman was attempting to highlight a disturbing cultural tradition, then we agree. These customs and traditions have no place in any modern society. Although as far as we are aware, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone involved with the proposed mosque practices or supports female genital mutilation.

What the media who have covered the story so far and Councillor Chapman may not realise though is that the children in the photo are actually male.

Articles at news.com.au and the Age and the Herald Sun have interpreted her intentions to be highlighting female genital mutilation, although ABC News seems to be a little less sure, with this article which is careful not to assume what the gender of the children may be.

A copy of the original, unpixelated photo can be found here (warning: disturbing content), which clearly shows that this is the aftermath of male infant genital mutilation.

“Oh, we could have this here too?” she tweets. Yes, we already have this here. It is commonly called circumcision, and is performed on over 12,000 baby boys in Australia every year. It is even subsidised by our Government through the Medicare system, and is completely unregulated. Anyone can be a circumciser and a male child can be circumcised for any reason, with any implement at any location.

We wonder if Councillor Chapman is aware of her apparent mistake, wonder what her position is on male circumcision.

Perhaps, like us, she makes no distinction between gender in her objection to genital mutilation. Although if this was the case, she could not justifiably use the picture to object to the development of the mosque given that male circumcision is pervasive throughout both muslim and mainstream Australian cultures.

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.