THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY FAILED ME AND FAILED MY SON
“It was the worst decision I have made, so uninformed.”
“After I saw his raw wound, I knew I did something wrong.”
“When I changed his diaper for the first time after the procedure I was horrified…”
“It was the worst day of my life. And the worst choice of my life…”
“If I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat.”
“I would have never allowed the procedure if I had an inkling of what was involved.”
“It was only after my son was circumcised that I learned it was not necessary, excruciatingly painful, and that all of the things I was told about circumcision were myths.”
Do these sound like the words of parents who were truly informed about the facts of male genital cutting before they signed the consent form?
Time for Change
There is a large and continuously growing online community of men and women who spend countless hours educating themselves on the harms of male genital cutting. We are a community of human rights activists fighting to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Many members of this community are parents who learned the truth too late to protect their own sons and, motivated by the pain of their regret, these parents selflessly dedicate themselves to educating other parents in order to prevent them from making the same devastating mistake.
These are the faces of moms and dads who trusted that their medical community knew best. They were told circumcision was healthier. They were asked to sign the consent form without being fully informed. They were told that circumcision should be a parent's decision. They were told it was "just a little snip." They were made to believe "it's just what you do." Or they were told nothing at all. They were not told of the short and long term complications of genital cutting. There was no class offered on the functions of the foreskin. There was no communication about the pain involved during and after the amputation. There was no discussion about men who wished the choice for their body had been theirs. No one told them the majority of the world's men live happy, healthy lives with their foreskin intact. These parents were not educated by their healthcare providers on the irreversible decision they were about to make.
Healthcare providers are products of their culture and while we want to be able to rely on them for medical advice, when it comes to knowledge on genital cutting, the roles are reversed. It is we, the educated laymen, who have become the experts on the benefits of foreskin and harms of circumcision. We know the truth behind the misleading information that has permeated American medicine. Now we must educate our healthcare professionals. We must provide them with the information they didn’t receive in their training. We must let them know the routine signatures on thousands of consent forms each day in America are unethical. Parents must speak of their regrets. Men must speak of their psychological and physical pain. As our collective voice grows louder and stronger, we will create change. It is time for medical professionals to learn the truth, even if that means we must teach them.
Be the Change
Parents: Write a letter to the doctor who circumcised your son, the head of pediatrics at the hospital where your son was circumcised, your son's pediatrician, your OBGYN, and express your feelings about not being fully informed on the functions of the foreskin and the harms caused by circumcision. Read One Mom's Letter for ideas. Send us a copy of your letter to be added to the YWB website.
Men: Write a letter to the doctor who circumcised you, the head of pediatrics at the hospital where you were circumcised, your pediatrician, and express your feelings about having your genitals permanently altered without your consent. Read One Man's Letter for ideas. Send us a copy of your letter to be added to the YWB website.
To create change, we need doctors to hear that parents deeply regret what they allowed to happen to their sons and that men hate what was done to them as infants without their consent. Our voices must be heard to educate and create change. Please, do not remain silent.
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Why is Our Medical Community Failing Us?
The answer to this question is not simple or straightforward, but what we do know is that in America, most Pediatricians, OBGYNs, nurses and other medical professionals are not taught the many functions of the foreskin during their studies. Shockingly, they are often only taught how to remove it. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists merely refers to the foreskin as “a layer of skin covering the end of the penis,” instead of the highly specialized, protective and erogenous tissue it truly is. The majority of medical professionals complete their schooling without ever learning about the complexities of the foreskin and the damages caused by circumcision. As a result, doctors are likely to recommend circumcision to parents rather than discourage it.
Even families who choose not to circumcise (leave their sons intact) are not immune to their doctor’s ignorance. These same doctors who do not understand the functions of the foreskin also don’t understand proper intact care and often incorrectly instruct parents to retract their baby’s foreskin to clean underneath it. Because the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis (glans) at birth and throughout childhood, forced retraction causes a break in connective tissue and can result in inflammation, irritation, adhesions, infections, and more. These issues, created by improper care, then cause the same doctors to recommend circumcision to correct the problems that they created.
The nonprofit organization, Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.), discusses the reasons for such ignorance at length in an article on the epidemic of forced retraction. They refer to Avery’s Neonatology (2005:1088), a medical textbook that provides a logical reason for the gross lack of knowledge on natural male anatomy: “Because circumcision is so common in the United States, the natural history of the [foreskin] has been lost, and one must depend on observations made in countries in which circumcision is usually not practiced.” In their own examination of over 40 medical textbooks, D.O.C. found that only four gave proper information on intact care and the natural penis. The trickle down effect from the lack of available accurate information is readily observable: in 2006, D.O.C. surveyed 113 physicians and medical students at an American Academy of Family Practice convention and found that only three possessed fully accurate knowledge of intact male genitals.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the community of people fighting to end this practice are much more educated on the foreskin, proper intact care, and complications caused by circumcision, than the doctors with medical degrees who have parents looking to them for guidance and knowledge.
The United States: An Anomaly in the World of Modern Medicine
Circumcision is the only surgery in America performed on the healthy organ of a non-consenting human; it is an amputation in the absence of disease. We are rightly horrified at the thought of girls in other countries having their genitals cut, but in our own country, we have been conditioned to believe there is a medical need for the same to be done to our boys. Contrary to popular belief, male genital cutting is not the norm in the rest of the world. The World Health Organization estimates "...approximately 30% of the world’s males aged 15 years or older are circumcised… Of these, around two thirds (69%) are Muslim (living mainly in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa), 0.8% are Jewish, and 13% are non-Muslim and non-Jewish men living in the United States of America." Most of the world does not cut the foreskin off their male babies and the three groups who do it the most are: Muslims, Jews and Americans. Let that sink in.