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Monday, August 27th, 2012
The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its policy on circumcision, saying the benefits of the procedure mean parents should get access to it, and insurance companies should pay for it.
But the academy stopped short of recommending circumcision for all baby boys, saying it’s up to parents to decide, the Associated Press reports.
The new policy follows recent studies showing that circumcision reduces chances of infection with HIV and other sexually spread diseases, urinary tract infections and penis cancer.
Insurance coverage of circumcision varies, and Medicaid won’t pay for it in some states. Rates of circumcision in the United States have dropped in recent years, although about half of all U.S. baby boys still undergo the procedure. From the AP:
[The new policy] comes amid ongoing debate over whether circumcision is medically necessary or a cosmetic procedure that critics say amounts to genital mutilation. Activists favoring a circumcision ban made headway in putting it to a vote last year in San Francisco but a judge later knocked the measure off the city ballot, ruling that regulating medical procedures is up to the state, not city officials.
In Germany, Jewish and Muslim leaders have protested a regional court ruling in June that said circumcision amounts to bodily harm.
Meantime, a recent study projected that declining U.S. circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming years because of increased illness and infections.
Image: Newborn baby boy via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have been studying the ongoing decline in the number baby boys who are circumcised, concluding that the drop could mean increased health care costs, to the tune of billions of dollars. The study comes as a growing number of states’ Medicaid insurance programs are cutting coverage for the procedure. Time Magazine reports:
Studies link circumcision with numerous health benefits: the procedure is associated with lower risks of urinary tract infections in babies and young boys, and reductions in men’s risk of contracting HIV, genital herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV); it may also help reduce the odds of penile and prostate cancers. By reducing the burden of sexually transmitted infections among men, it may also help keep more women infection-free as well.
If circumcision rates were to drop from the current 55% to 10%, urinary tract infections in baby boys may rise a whopping 212%, and in men, HIV infections could increase by 12%, HPV infections by 29% and herpes simplex virus type 2 by 20%. In women, dropping rates of male circumcision could increase cases of bacterial vaginosis by 18% and low-risk HPV by 13%.
As gaps in insurance coverage increasingly lead parents to opt out of circumcision, the researchers say a drop to 10% is not unlikely — that’s in line with circumcision rates in Europe, where the procedure is typically not covered by insurance. Medicaid programs in many states have eliminated coverage of the procedure: currently, 18 states no longer pay for it, with South Carolina and Colorado most recently ending coverage last year. According to the study authors, the rate of circumcision rates had remained steady at about 79% between 1970 and ’80, but fell to 63% in 1999 and then dropped again to 55% in 2010.
Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 28th, 2012
In a move that one rabbi called “fatal to the freedom of religion,” a German court has ruled that boys cannot be circumcised because the practice inflicts bodily harm on children who are not able to give their own consent for the procedure. The Guardian newspaper has more:
A judge at a Cologne court said that the circumcision of minors went against a child’s interests because it led to a physical alteration of the body, and because people other than the child were determining its religious affiliation.
Religious leaders said the court had stepped into a minefield with its decision, which undermined their religious authority and contravened Germany’s constitution.
Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, said: “I find the ruling adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned.”
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, called it “an egregious and insensitive measure” which amounted to “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination.”
The ruling followed a lengthy legal battle, sparked when a Muslim couple decided to have their son circumcised, specifically for religious reasons, by a Muslim doctor in Cologne. The doctor, identified only as Dr K, carried out the circumcision on the four-year old boy in November 2010, before giving the wound four stitches. The same evening, he visited the family at home to check up on the boy. When the boy began bleeding again two days later, his parents took him to the casualty department of Cologne’s University hospital. The hospital contacted the police, who then launched an investigation. The doctor was charged with bodily harm, and the case was taken to court.
While the court acquitted Dr. K on the grounds that he had not broken any law, it concluded that circumcision of minors for religious reasons should be outlawed, and that neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure. It ruled that in future doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.
The court weighed up three articles from the basic law: the rights of parents, the freedom of religious practice and the right of the child to physical integrity, before coming to the conclusion that the procedure was not in the interests of the child.
It rejected the defence that circumcision is considered hygienic in many cultures, one of the main reasons it is carried out in the US, Britain and in Germany.
After much deliberation, it concluded that a circumcision, “even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent.”
Image: The German flag, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, September 8th, 2011
If you’re following the circumcision debate in California, here’s the latest: The California legislature this week approved a bill that prevents local communities from banning circumcision, The Associated Press reports.
The bill was a response to events this summer in San Francisco, where an anti-circumcision group collected more than 7,500 signatures to place a measure banning circumcision on the November ballot. When a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups sued, a judge blocked the ballot measure.
The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.
From the AP:
The author of [the bill], Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles, says [circumcision] has cultural and health benefits and should require statewide rules.
Challengers say it is an unnecessary surgery that may lead to sexual and health problems later in life. Advocates say circumcision is an important religious practice for many Jews and Muslims and can reduce the risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
(image via: http://twofrenchiesinsf.over-blog.com)
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Monday, September 5th, 2011
Fewer parents are choosing to have their newborn sons circumcised at the hospital, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC looked at three different surveys that tracked rates of hospital circumcisions, and found the circumcision rate dropped slightly in all three. From Reuters Health:
In one survey, newborn male circumcision rates fell to 56.9 percent in 2008 from 62.9 percent in 1999. In another, rates of circumcision fell to 54.7 percent in 2010 from 58.4 percent in 2001. In a third, rates fell to 56.3 percent in 2008 from 63.5 percent in 1999.
The CDC said these statistics don’t include all circumcisions, since some boys are circumcised in their communities, in religious rituals that take place after they leave the hospital, Reuters reports:
Circumcision is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.
The wider U.S. population adopted the practice due to potential health benefits, but those advantages have become the subject of debate, including a recent effort to ban circumcision in San Francisco.
This summer, an anti-circumcision group in San Francisco collected more than 7,500 signatures to place a measure banning the practice on the November ballot. A judge blocked the ballot measure, and the California state legislature is currently working to prevent such bans at the local level.
Before these recent decreases, the rate of hospital circumcisions had been rising. “Circumcision rates rose to 61.1 percent from 1997 to 2000 from 48.3 percent in 1988,” Reuters reports. The researchers suggest that cost may be one reason for the current drop. From Reuters:
Medicaid coverage may be one factor. A recent study found circumcision rates were 24 percentage points higher in states in which it was routinely paid for compared with hospitals in states that do not cover the procedure.
As of 2009, Medicaid paid for circumcision in 33 U.S. states.
(image via: http://alphamom.com)
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