Letter: Circumcision ethics

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The claim that male infant circumcision is unethical should be greeted with scepticism (letters, 25 September).

The General Medical Council issued the following guidance to doctors in 1997: "Listen to those with parental responsibility and give careful consideration to their views. You are not obliged to act on a request to circumcise a child, but you should explain if you are opposed to circumcision other than for therapeutic reasons. You should also tell those with parental responsibility that they have a right to see another doctor."

Thus doctors are entitled to refuse to perform a circumcision that is requested for non-therapeutic reasons, but are certainly not under an ethical duty to refuse.

The grounds for circumcision go beyond immediate clinical need, and I would add a further reason to the three stated in Angela West's letter (23 september), namely the far greater ease of condom use. The condom is the only reversible form of male contraception and the main defence against sexually transmitted disease.

That does not necessarily imply, however, that circumcision should be available on the NHS. I paid pounds 1,100 for my own operation four years ago, and the improved hygiene, comfort and convenience are worth it. Whether parents think it appropriate to do as much for their infant sons is a matter for them.

CHARLES TURPIN

Luxembourg

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