Letter: Minor surgery, major scars

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The Independent Online

JOHN MORRISH'S report 'Mother wins injury award for son's circumcision' (22 May) about the boy circumcised at 18 months for no medical indication, without anaesthesia, and without his mother's consent, highlights an important issue. Should parents have any right to alter surgically a child's genitalia when there is no abnormality present? While female genital mutilation is illegal in this country, surgery on males remains legal, even though there is mounting evidence that circumcision is traumatic at the time, and males are harmed throughout their lives by the loss of the foreskin.

The foreskin is richly supplied with specialised nerve endings and is a major source of pleasure during sexual arousal. Furthermore it protects the glans, which when left exposed, gradually loses its sensitivity. The circumcised man also suffers mechanical sexual problems because he is often left with insufficient skin on his penis to allow the natural gliding motion of the skin over the shaft and glans during sex.

Thus there is permanent physical damage. In addition, many men are psychologically affected by this mutilation. They feel incomplete, and they often feel betrayed by their parents and the medical profession. Restoration of the foreskin is possible by non-surgical means now, though it takes months or years. Many circumcised men feel driven to this course of action. It is time the general public and the medical profession recognised the serious effects of this apparently trivial surgery.

Dr John Warren

Consultant Physician

Harlow, Essex