Thursday, July 5, 2012

ROTTERDAM: Amicable exchange of views

July 5, 2012

Amicable exchange of views in Rotterdam

A day-long seminar in Rotterdam last week generated an amicable exchange of views.

The seminar, "The Doctor and the Foreskin" was organised by the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) parallel to the conference of the International Association of Bioethics. It came hard on the heels of the decision of the District Court of Cologne that non-therapeutic infant circumcision was contrary to the German Basic Law.

The first presentation of the day was by Gabriela Gomez, from Venezuela, about "scale up" of "voluntary medical male circumcision" and saw no problem with this. She thought talk of "mutilation" was unhelpful.

Michel Garrene's presentation was provided a measured response to the African HIV research. He acknowledged that the authors had proved efficacy at the individual level but demonstrated that that they had failed to prove effectiveness at a population level.

Anton van Niekerk, a moral philosopher from South Africa, pointed out that if someone produced a vaccine that was only 60% effective they would be laughed out of the arena.

Tom de Jong, a Danish Paediatric Urologist, gave a synopsis of how foreskin problems should be tackled, as opposed to circumcision.

Morten Frisch gave details of his research on the sexual effects of circumcision. He also mentioned his experience with Brian Morris as a reviewer of his paper.

Trond Markestad gave a synopsis of the situation in Norway. The religious communities, including the Church of Norway, had concluded it should be permitted, whereas the human rights organisations had concluded it should not.

Three different proposals have emerged:
  1. Prohibit circumcision under age of 16, supported by the Centre Party, Humanists and the Children’s Ombudsman.
  2. Permit circumcision of children by anyone, supported by Jews, Moslems and the Church of Norway.
  3. Permit circumcision of children, but only by a doctor, supported by Norwegian Medical Association, who are concerned that a ban would drive the practice underground, thus resulting in more harm to children.
One Jewish man observed that not being circumcised had no bearing on whether or not someone was a Jew. An Israeli woman said that an increasing number of Israeli parents were opting against circumcision and that change would take place from the bottom up.

Arie C Nieuwenhuuijzen Kruseman, President of KNMG, concluded with a conciliatory tone.


  1. It is illegal to circumcise an animal, but not illegal to circumcise a boy.

    1. True but it is legal to castrate an animal, so the analogy has limited usefulness.

      Sufficient that it's illegal to tattoo a child, or to pierce a child's genitals - especially when people use tattooing or piercing as analogies.

    2. it is not illegal to tatoo or pierce a child. It may be illegal for a child to do that on his own without parental concent. mind you - most girls have ear rings. that's pierceing !