A health section article published in the Washington Post yesterday (13 Aug 2012) discusses various angles of the circumcision controversy in a generally fair and accurate light. The American Academy of Pediatrics signaled last week that its new statement on infant circumcision would be released in the September 1 issue of Pediatrics magazine. This WaPo article contains a few sentences that serve as a guide to what is coming.
According to its 2005 position statement, which reaffirmed its 1999 stance, “existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits” of newborn circumcision but not enough to “recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”
That position is poised to change, though, as the AAP is expected to release an updated statement and report reflecting recent research later this month.
While details are not yet available, the new position concludes that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, said Michael Brady, a pediatric expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP’s task force on circumcision.
The AAP’s new position falls short of a routine recommendation, Brady said, adding that parents should continue to take into account their own cultural, religious or social views. “But from a public health perspective, I think it [circumcision] is a good decision and a lot of children will benefit.”
So, there it is in a nutshell. Instead of previous statements dating back to 1971 saying either that the risks/detriments outweigh potential benefits or the present oddly-stated policy that potential benefits are about evenly matched with known risks and disadvantages, the AAP is poised to announce that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. To get to this point, they almost certainly are going to have to downplay the complication rate and ignore entirely the functions of the foreskin and the human rights angle.
My best guess is that the AAP will conclude that circumcision is "beneficial" and should be actively discussed with all parents so they are clear on the "advantages". The risks, not so much. The AAP won't use the words "recommend" or "endorse", unless they are prepared to recommend both circumcising and not circumcising, which is pretty much what they do today.
The rest of the article is pretty good, although I have a big issue near the end where the journalist implies that neonatal circumcision is safer than adult circumcision. She even labels a section with that claim, but her only apparent source is a mom in Northern Virginia who had her 2 sons circumcised and "thinks" earlier circumcision is safer and less memorable. In reality, infant circumcision has about 20 times the complication rate of adult circumcision. Also, there have been no recorded adult deaths from circumcision in the United States, while more than a thousand baby boys per decade die directly or indirectly from their circumcisions in the US alone. It is tragic and inexcusable.
Lawyers are champing at the bit. If the AAP announces that circumcision is desirable and safe, then lawsuits arising from complications will soar.