The health benefits of circumcising baby boys outweigh the risks associated with the procedure, according to leading paediatricians.
New guidance by leading children’s doctors in the United States will reignite debate on the controversial subject which has pitted faith groups against opponents of religion who have described the operation as little more than genital mutilation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP) which had previously opposed the routine circumcision of newborns, said parents should decide and urged insurance companies to pay for it.
“The benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for those families who choose it,“ the academy said.
The recommendation follows research showing circumcision reduces the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
It can also lower the chance of urinary tract infections and penis cancer, it is claimed.
This summer a German regional court in Cologne concluded the practice amounted to bodily harm.
The ruling prompted a furious joint response from European Jewish and Muslim leaders who described it as an affront to religious freedom.
“Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms against this court ruling,” the statement said
In Britain the procedure for religious or other non therapeutic reasons is considered legal provided that both parents consent.
In guidance published in 2006 the British Medical Association said it had no policy on the issue because of the “absence of unambiguously clear and consistent medical data on the implications of the intervention.”
However it said doctors were under no obligation to comply with a parents’ request to circumcise a child. Some NHS Trusts only carry out the surgery on medical grounds.
In the United States where nearly half of newborn males – about one million per year - are circumcised the practice is on the wane.
But a recent study projected that continued decline could add more than $4bn in health care costs due to increased illness and infections.
It is estimated around 30,000 boys are circumcised each year in the UK.
The procedure involves removing the tip of the penis reducing germs which growth underneath the foreskin.
The AAP concluded that bleeding and infection as a result of the surgery were rare.
Opponents argue that the foreskin is highly sensitive and plays a vital part in lubrication during sex.
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