Meet the ‘Circumcision Academy of Australia’

In 2010, an organisation calling itself the ‘Circumcision Foundation of Australia’ (CFA) was established, with the sole aim of reversing the dramatic decline in the number of neonatal circumcisions that are performed in Australia. For reasons unknown, in the middle of 2014, the CFA re-branded itself as the ‘Circumcision Academy of Australia’ (CAA). The CAA 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 has previously 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 a public health measure’. Anyone who takes a closer look at the activities and associations of the CAA’s members will therefore surely ask themselves the following question: ‘What are the real motivations of the Circumcision Academy of Australia?’

In the interests of transparency and public awareness, Intactivists of Australasia have compiled the following dossier on the key members of the CAA.

BRIAN J MORRIS:

Morris was a founding member of ‘The Gilgal Society’, a UK based pro-circumcision organisation. Until 2012, the Gilgal Society was led by Vernon Quaintance, who was found guilty of possessing child pornography in 2012 and who is currently facing more similar charges. As of today, Morris’s personal pro-circumcision website still contains a link to ‘a list of possible circumcisers’. That document originally contained the Gilgal Society logo but in the aftermath of Quaintance’s arrest Morris removed any reference to Gilgal in that (and other) downloadable documents. Morris also had a poem written by Quaintance in the ‘circumcision humour’ section of his site. The same page also featured a photo of a young boy with his penis trapped inside a mobile phone. Possibly as a result of personal embarrassment created by Intactivists of Australasia, Morris has since removed the ‘circumcision humour’ page from his website.

In December 2011, Morris was directed by his previous employer (University of Sydney) to remove his site from their servers. Morris subsequently moved that site to another server but, curiously, a ‘whois’ search revealed that the CFA website was 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?

TERENCE RUSSELL:

Russell is the President of the CAA. 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?

ALEX WODAK:

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?

ANTHONY DILLEY:

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, a previous visit to Dilley’s website confirmed that he, like Terence Russell, has had a particular interest in performing tongue-tie surgeries.

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?

MICHAEL LOWY:

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 the above, it would  appear to be 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’.

ADRIAN MINDEL:

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.

Given the above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is Mindel’s stance on circumcision based on ‘public health advocacy, or something else?

KAREN A DUGGAN

Duggan is a Sydney based Nephrologist (renal specialist). She is listed as a co-author of the CAA’s defining document, ‘Infant male circumcision: An evidence based policy statement’.

In its discussion of urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and renal disease, the CAA 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 CAA 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’.

Given all of the evidence provided above, it appears valid to ask the following question: Is the CAA’s promotion of routine circumcision of male minors in Australia based on ‘public health advocacy’, or is it based on something else? Thus far, Intactivists of Australasia have not sighted any response from the members of CAA which satisfies our curiosity about their stance on this important human rights issue. If you are similarly unconvinced about the motivations of the CAA please click this link to support our petition which opposes the questionable agenda of the CAA.

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Channel Ten set to open a ‘Can of Worms’ about circumcision

Child holding wormsChannel Ten’s popular ‘dilemma’ program ‘Can of Worms’ will return to our television screens on Monday, August 20th, with a new host, former panelist on ‘The Circle’,  Chrissie Swan. One of the questions it will ask its panel and studio audience is ‘Should circumcision be banned?’.

In the lead-up to the show’s re-launch, Ten posted this question on the  ‘Can of Worms’  Facebook page and received more than 550 responses. There were many well informed contributions to the debate but, sadly, there were also many other responses which provided clear evidence that much more public education is required on this issue.

Some of the respondents referred to alleged ‘health problems’ that might occur as a result of not having a boy circumcised, however no ‘peak’ medical authority in the world recommends the practice as a valid means of mitigating such concerns. Others spoke of the need for ‘parental rights’ to be paramount in such a discussion. They appeared to be oblivious of the need for infants (who are, of course, unable to consent) to be protected from life-long damage being inflicted upon them as a consequence of the ill-informed beliefs (or religious convictions) of their legal guardians, and/or their medical practitioners.

Hopefully, when the relevant episode of ‘Can of Worms’ goes to air, Channel Ten will provide its viewers with every opportunity to have their say and, more importantly, to educate themselves about this important human rights issue.

Image courtesy of dspruitt / FreeDigitalPhotos.net