May 15, 2012
Circumcision decision dueBy Michelle Paine
A TASMANIAN report into whether circumcision may be illegal is expected this month.
It comes as the Federal Government considers whether the procedure should continue to qualify for Medicare payments.
The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute began its review in 2009.
Public hospitals in Tasmania, as in most states, only circumcise if medically necessary.
A 2008 University of Tasmania researcher said the law failed to clarify whether the person doing the procedure, usually a doctor but sometimes a religious figure, was committing assault or abuse, or that consent from the boy's parents was protection against criminal and civil action.
In 2007 then Children's Commission Paul Mason said that other than for medical reasons, it was a breach of the most basic human right to inflict permanent, painful and disfiguring surgery on a boy's body when he was too small to resist.
"Everyone is entitled to bodily integrity, to protection of their own body from injury by another without their consent," Mr Mason said.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians said there was no medical evidence for routine circumcision.
It said the rate of complications, which could be severe, was 1 to 4 per cent, and that a well trained practitioner should do the procedure.
"Informed parental choice should be respected .. [consent] should include the possibility that the ethical principle of autonomy may be better fulfilled by deferring the circumcision to adolescence with the young man consenting on his own behalf," its statement said.
Department of Health and Human Services strategic planning director Martin Hensher said it was an elective surgical procedure when deemed medically necessary.
Last year there were 84 circumcisions, 57 on children, in Tasmanian public hospitals.
"Any debate on a change in policy relating to male circumcision, including Medicare coverage, needs to take place on a national basis in close consultation with physicians and the relevant peak bodies like the [RACP]."