Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SOUTH CAROLINA: Surgery on intersexed child could be unconstitutional

Southern Poverty Law Center
August 23, 2013

Federal court says sex-assignment surgery on child could violate U.S. Constitution, refuses to dismiss case


For the first time, a federal court has concluded that a medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery on a child with an intersex condition could be a violation of the Constitution. This marks an important step forward in seeking justice for “M.C.,” a young man who was needlessly subjected to the procedure as an infant in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

U.S. District Judge David C. Norton of the South Carolina Charleston Division denied a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case, ruling from the bench following oral arguments late yesterday.

"We applaud the court's decision and we are pleased that the court will have the opportunity to consider the deeply important constitutional issues at stake,” said Alesdair Ittelson, staff attorney for the SPLC. “By removing M.C.'s healthy body parts and trying to make him a girl absent any pressing reason, defendants violated M.C.'s constitutional rights. We look forward to the chance to make our case at trial and bring justice to M.C. and children like him."

M.C. was born with an intersex condition – a difference in reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female. When he was just 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl.

The defendants made this decision even though there was no way of knowing, at such an early age, whether M.C. would grow up to be a male or female. Defendants did not even provide a hearing to determine whether the procedure was in M.C.'s best interests. M.C. has since grown into a healthy 8-year-old boy, although he will never get back the phallus and testicle that were removed.

The SPLC and co-counsel, Advocates for Informed Choice and the private firms Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC and Steptoe & Johnson LLP, filed lawsuits in both state and federal courts in May.

Earlier story

Metzitzah: Two more babies with herpes

August 23, 2013

Babies' herpes linked to circumcision practice

Two more infants have contracted the herpes virus after undergoing an ultra-Orthodoz Jewish type of circumcision, which has been linked to the spread of the potentially deadly virus to newborn boys, according to CNN.

The site reports the health department says the procedure is dangerous because the contact with the mouth could transmit diseases such as herpes.

“While HSV-1 in adults can cause the common cold sore, HSV-1 infection in newborns is very serious,” a department statement says.

Earlier story

NEW YORK: Western US circumcision rate falls dramatically

New York Times
August 22, 2013

Circumcision Rates in U.S. Drop Drastically in Western States

by Hope Reeves

¶ The percentage of male newborns who are circumcised in United States hospitals has dropped drastically. Over a 32-year period, the number of male newborns circumcised in the hospital decreased nationally to 58.3 percent in 2010 from 64.5 percent in 1979, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

¶ But while that 10 percent decrease over all is statistically significant, the authors of the report say, what leaps out of the data is a 37 percent drop in the West. In that 13-state part of the country, the rate of newborns receiving routine circumcisions at birth fell to 40.2 percent in 2010, by far the lowest rate in the country, from 63.9 percent in 1979. That decline accounts for virtually all of the shift nationwide.

¶ In the Northeast the overall trend was flat across the 32 years, with a high of 69.6 percent in 1994 and a low of 60.7 percent in 2007. Rates in the Midwest had dropped 3.3 percentage points over the period studied, with a high of 82.9 percent in 1998 and a low of 68.8 percent in 2009. The South’s rate increased 2.6 percentage points and ranged between 66.1 percent in 1995 and 53.8 percent in 1988.

¶ The authors cannot explain why the numbers dropped so precipitously in the West, which comprises Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, because the analysis did not factor in contextual data. (These figures do not represent circumcisions performed outside of the hospital setting — e.g., ritual circumcisions — or any following discharge from the birth hospitalization.)

¶ “That question is beyond the scope of this report,” Maria Owings, the lead author, said.

¶ But it remains an intriguing question. Why would that part of the country differ so much from the rest? Have parents there developed a new attitude toward circumcision and, if so, why?

[What needs to be explained is not why the rate has fallen in the West, but why it has failed to fall in the rest of the country.]

¶ The high-profile 2010-11 attempt to get a bill criminalizing the procedure on a San Francisco ballot might have provided an opportunity for opponents of the procedure to reach parents. The initiative — called the Prohibition of Genital Cutting of Male Minors — was ultimately quashed, but it did get 12,000 supporting signatures.

¶ “San Francisco is a bastion for new thinking and individual rights, which draws many people to the region; however, the entire West Coast — Washington, Oregon — also have very low infant circumcision rates,” said Lloyd Schofield, the leader of the San Francisco movement. “Certainly much of this comes from basic awareness and less insistence on the procedure from the medical industry.”

¶ Mr. Schofield said that “a huge driver of the decline” was the nonpayment for the procedure by private insurers, “but in particular coverage was removed from Medicaid here decades ago.”

¶ “When the money is gone,” he said, “it no longer serves a purpose … funny thing about that!”

¶ Marc Stern, a lawyer for the American Jewish Committee who worked against the initiative, suggested that, among other things, the larger population of immigrants from countries that do not routinely circumcise could account for the low rates in the West. “Different cultures in Asia and the Americas and different attitudes towards circumcision may help explain the West’s differential,” he said.

¶ Douglas Diekema, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ task force on circumcision and a professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital, echoed Mr. Stern’s theory that the difference in circumcision rates could be a result of demographics, but he had another theory, too.

¶ “The West Coast has more immigrants from populations that don’t circumcise as commonly as we do in the U.S.,” he said. “The Hispanic culture is one of those, and since the West and Southwest are taking on” more Hispanics, one could assume there would be a drop.

¶ At the same time, Dr. Diekema said, West Coast residents tend to be more progressive.

¶“Ever since the founding of this country, the West Coast has attracted people who walk to the beat of their own drummer,” he said. “People here are more likely to question the standard and go a different way.”

NEW YORK: US circumcision rate falls

New York Times
August 22, 2013

U.S. Circumcision Rates Are Declining

by Nicholas Bakalar

The percentage of newborns who are circumcised in the United States declined to 58.3 percent in 2010 from 64.5 percent in 1979, according to a new analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report is based on annual surveys of about 450 hospitals nationwide.

But rates varied over the period. They went down during the 1980s after a task force of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that there were no medical benefits to the procedure, then rose during the ’90s after the medical group revised its position, claiming there were potential benefits. In 1999, the A.A.P. changed its view again, stating that despite potential benefits, there was insufficient evidence to recommend routine circumcision. That announcement was followed by another slight decrease.

There are regional variations as well. In 2010, about 71 percent of babies in the Midwest were circumcised, 66.3 percent in the Northeast, 58.4 percent in the South, and 40.2 percent in the West.

The lead author of the report, Maria Owings, a health statistician with the center, emphasized that the report includes no explanation for the numbers. “We didn’t factor in any other contextual information that would shed light on the reasons for the regional variations or the variations over time,” she said. And, she added, “The N.C.H.S. doesn’t take an advocacy position.”

PERTH: More botched circumcisions reported

Perth Now (Australia)
August 22, 2013

Botched circumcisions on the rise

by Kaitlyn Offer

MORE Perth men are seeking legal advice for botched cosmetic circumcisions, according to one Perth law firm.

Medical law specialist Karina Hafford from Slater and Gordon said so far this year about six men, almost one a month, had come to her for legal advice over male circumcisions gone wrong.

The lawyer of 15 years said it was worrying to see the men looking for help as she had never had an inquiry over male circumcision before. [Perhaps men are becoming more critical as the issue is raised on the Internet.]

“I had never seen these types of issues until this year when I've had a handful of inquiries in as many months,” Ms Hafford said.

She said the jump in inquiries was particularly related to overseas, cosmetic procedures, done in Europe and Asia.

“My advice would be to avoid overseas surgeries – many country’s health industries are not regulated as carefully as Australia,” Ms Hafford said.

“We’ve all seen horror stories in the media about ‘cosmetic tourism’ gone wrong.”

Ms Hafford said there were several reasons why a man might opt for a cosmetic circumcision.

“Men may choose this surgery for health reasons, such as infected piercings, bladder problems, cosmetic appearance, religious reasons, or to fix their original procedure as a child,” Ms Hafford said.

“No matter what the reason, it can be a very complex and emotive health issue for men and they need to be careful when they choose their surgeon.”

WA Department of Health chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed said he was not aware of a rise in the number of cosmetic circumcision procedures being done and it was not performed in the WA public health system except for medical reasons.

“Male circumcision is not generally recommended,” he said.

“Although it is a minor operation, like any surgery it has risks including infection.”

Ms Hafford said men should carefully check their surgeon's credentials and history of investigations or complaints before going ahead with a circumcision.


JOHANNESBURG: 4yo boy dies after hospital circumcision

IoL News (South Africa)
August 16, 2013

Child dies after circumcision at hospital

by Vuyo Mkize

Johannesburg - “They killed my child.” These were the pained words of a Germiston father whose son had to be taken off life support on Wednesday evening after he was declared brain dead by two surgeons following a medical circumcision operation a week ago.

Reggie Mokalapa, 39, took his four-year-old son, Gugulethu, to Medicross Germiston for what doctors had assured him would be a “less than two-hour” procedure last Tuesday.

... Mokalapa went to wait outside in their car and, minutes later, his wife Wilhemina joined him.

... An hour later, Wilhemina asked the sister on duty to wake their son as Mokalapa needed to get to work.

“It was at that point they realised he wasn’t breathing,” Mokalapa said.

“His heart had stopped.

“It took them a while to resuscitate him, around 10 to 15 minutes, but eventually his heart started beating again.”

Gugulethu was then transferred to Netcare Sunward Park Hospital, where the attending doctor expressed extreme concern over his condition.

... doctors needed to cool Gugulethu’s body so that if there was any injury to the brain, it did not spread further.

“They did that over four days, and on the fourth day, they started warming him up.... On Sunday, monitors showed that Gugulethu’s brain was not responding, and on Monday he was declared brain dead.

On Wednesday, a second doctor confirmed that Gugulethu was brain dead and the family elected for doctors to take him off life support.

“We are always advised to circumcise our children young, and we did this so that he’d be okay in future. Unfortunately, we took him to a slaughterhouse,” said Mokalapa.

He added that all he wanted from Medicross was acknowledgement of what they did wrong.... Medicross director Dr Oelie van Schalkwyk on Thursday said the doctors and staff at the Germiston centre were “devastated” by what happened to Gugulethu.

“Gugulethu was admitted to Netcare Garden City Hospital after complications following his procedure, and everything humanly possible had been done by the doctors and nurses at Germiston medical centre to assist him.

“We are unable to speculate on the possible factors which may have contributed until it has been fully investigated and conclusively established precisely what transpired.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

TURKANA, KENYA: Circumcised youths go on killing sprees

When just getting circumcised isn't enough....

Standard Digital News
August 6, 2013

Why Turkana residents cross fingers when August sets in

by Lucas Ng'asike

Turkana, Kenya: August is a dreaded month among many fishermen in Turkana. They fear venturing into Lake Turkana, which is one of the world’s rarest desert lake, and is home to nutritious and abundant fish stocks.

But inside the lake, especially in August, death lurks, thanks to foreign militia from neighbouring Ethiopia.

The militia group from Merille community in Ethiopia raids fishermen mostly in August.

During the month, newly circumcised Merille youth are required to kill people from an ‘enemy community’ and bring back their private parts as a sign of heroism.

Both Merille and Turkana live on the border of their two countries. They have staged attacks against each other for years with the worst one being in 2011, which left over 60 Turkana men, women and children dead.

Turkana North OCPD Bernard Nyakwaka said during the 2011 massacre, they recovered bodies that had missing private parts.

“Men are targeted most for mutilation of their private parts and this happens in attacks in August,” he told The Standard.

During the attacks, many locals have been abducted and killed and their bodies are hardly recovered.

Old way of life
Ethiopian elder Lotikori Yarakal confirmed that August marks the season when young men among the Merille graduate into manhood.

“They congregate around River Omo (in Ethiopia) where they are circumcised and conditions set before they graduate to become men,” he said.

Yarakal, who refused to be photographed for this story, said the Merille are still steeped in tradition and old way of life.

“One of the mandatory requirement is that they go out and kill their ‘enemies’ and bring back their private parts,” he said. Yarakal also said the new initiates are required to steal from their victims by raiding villages for livestock.

“They arm themselves to the teeth and plan before staging a surprise attack on land or in the lake,” he revealed.

Yarakal said abducting the ‘enemy’ is a plus for the youth but when time does not allow, they kill and leave the bodies but chop off private parts and disappear with them.

On August 1, the Merille militia struck, abducting four Turkana fishermen, who are now feared dead. ...

The over 60 Turkana locals were killed after they were tricked into crossing to Ethiopia to get food following drought on the Kenyan side. ...

An Ethiopian source said militiamen who kill are asked to choose beautiful girls to marry.

They get the girls after showing private parts of those they killed. Turkana leaders have condemned the long-standing assault by the militia and are now calling on the international community to intervene.

The leaders, among them Turkana Senator John Munyes and Turkana North MP Christopher Nakuleu described the killings as illegal human sacrifices.

“They are not only barbaric acts but are gross human rights violations by the militia group, which must be held accountable,” said Munyes.


COSTA RICA: Pastor circumcises "to remove a demon"

...a demon in his penis...

Tico Times San José, Costa Rica
July 28, 2013

Guanacaste pastor charged with 22 counts of sexual abuse

by Corey Kane

The charges date back to 2007, including one victim who alleged the pastor mutilated him during a circumcision performed to remove a demon in his penis.

The Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office last week announced criminal charges against a Guanacaste pastor on 22 counts of sexual abuse allegedly involving three adult victims and one minor.

The charges, made public last Wednesday, range over a six year period from 2007 to 2013. The suspect, identified as A. Gutiérrez, was an evangelical pastor at the Iglesia Dios del Evangelio Completo in Santa Cruz, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

According to the daily La Nación, the pastor’s defense attorney said his client denied all charges. A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor's Office said Gutierréz could face up to 50 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.

La Nación reported the testimony of one of the alleged victims, a Nicaraguan man who said the relationship with Gutierréz began when he sought private counsel as a member of his congregation. The man alleged that Gutierréz touched his genitals in an act of blessing them 80 times, performed oral sex on him, and circumcised him with a pair of scissors.

“I told him that I wished I had a very large penis,” the alleged victim said, according to La Nación. “The pastor told me that God had revealed to him that I needed to be circumcised to remove the shape that it had. He also said that God had told him that I had a demon in my penis.”

The man also described a medical examination by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ): “They did the exam in the OIJ office, [and] the medic told me that what had happened was a mutilation.”


SOUTH AFRICA: Nearly 80 circumcision deaths

July 20, 2013

When circumcision can mean death in South Africa

Nearly 80 boys and young men have died this year in South Africa from injuries sustained during ritual circumcision.

This has led to renewed calls for more effective regulation of the so-called “traditional surgeons” who carry out the procedure.

The lure of financial gain has resulted in an increase in illegal initiation schools in rural areas.

BBC Africa’s Nomsa Maseko reports from the Eastern Cape.

Earlier story