Yesterday I dropped my grand daughter off at high school and had a half hour window to go and sit in a coffee shop and read the newspaper before my appointments. I make it a firm policy to never pay money for our local newspaper. I’ve been the subject of some of their stories and I learned first hand not to believe anything you read in the Vancouver Sun. I am not above finding the discarded newspapers of other coffee drinkers and reading something mindless, however.
So, I found the front section of the newspaper, got my coffee and prepared to sit in a sunny window and enjoy the moment. On page 2 of the paper was a story about a local doctor who makes over a million dollars a year in his combined business of circumcising babies and sterilizing men. The story is about him going to Rwanda and teaching doctors there his technique for amputating the foreskins of baby boys. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Needless to say, it wasn’t a relaxing coffee break for me. The item reads like an advertisement for Neil Pollock and the reporter did not do any checking to get another point of view.
Even the governing body of this physician is strongly against circumcision. In the policy statement of the College of Physicians of British Columbia it is stated clearly:
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, an infant has rights that include security of person, life, freedom and bodily integrity. Routine infant male
circumcision is an unnecessary and irreversible procedure. Therefore, many consider it to be “unwarranted
I sent the following letter to the newspaper reporter:
Dear Mr. Ward,
I was very surprised to read your promotional piece for Neil Pollock in this morning´s paper. The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons has come out strongly against circumcision and it appears that you didn´t read their website policy statement which can be viewed at:
No matter what Pollock believes, there is no valid scientific evidence that HIV is prevented by circumcising infants. (see the references in the letter below). It is preposterous that Pollock thinks that African babies should undergo an operation that could leave them vulnerable to infection and bleeding. The man is dangerous. If he is really doing 2500 circumcisions at $300 each, he is making
$750,000 per annum off the suffering of B.C. baby boys. If you check the B.C. Medicare website, you will see that he also bills the B.C. medical plan $270,000. If you want to do an article about Neil Pollock, perhaps you could get Freedom of Information statistics on what the medical plan specifically pays him for? Or perhaps, do an article about how much pain the newborn boy goes through when Pollock´s anesthetics wear off and his raw, wounded penis is exposed to urine and feces in the diaper i.e. take a photographer and do an article on a week in the life of a family who has just had an infant circumcised. Or perhaps, interview some of the adult males who are victims of Pollock (and his ilk) and are considering suing their circumcisers for loss of sexual function.
I think you have been duped by a notorious self-promoter. Please feel free to forward my letter on to Dr. Pollock. I will be sending it to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Minister of Health. Feel free to contact me in future if you want a different perspective on male genital mutilation.
Fax to: College of Physicians & Surgeons, fax # 604 733 3503
(end of letter)
We’ve been dealing with this misinformation campaign for a few years now. The physicians’ group Doctors Opposing Circumcision has been responding to the erroneous (pseudo) science in a systematic way.This letter was sent to the American Journal of Public Health
RE: MEDICAID COVERAGE OF CIRCUMCISION SPREADS HARM TO THE POOR
According to data reported by Leibowitz et al., lack of Medicaid coverage (and, presumably, private insurance) results in lowered circumcision
We disagree with the authors´
interpretation of these findings and with their concern that poor babies could be deprived of benefits from circumcision. On the contrary, neonatal circumcision places boys at immediate risk for complications,2 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,3 and even death.4 Leibowitz et al. should have concluded that poor children are now at lower risk of neonatal circumcision harm. Further, as their data show, it is clearly not just poor children who are not being circumcised. In some US regions, a majority of male babies from all income brackets do not undergo circumcision.
Although there is no evidence that boys not circumcised at birth are any less healthy than those who are circumcised, there is evidence of the opposite. For example, the HIV rate in America is far higher than in Europe, where males are rarely circumcised.5 The penile cancer rate is no lower in America than it is in Europe.6 A recent study showed that urinary tract infections occurred in 6 of 24 infants circumcised by a physician
(25%) and in 42 of 87 infants circumcised by a religious circumciser; the calculated odds ratio for contracting a urinary tract infection were 2.8 (95% confidence interval=1,9.4).7 A comprehensive cost-utility study found that neonatal circumcision´s complications and consequences increased health care costs 742% beyond the cost of the circumcision itself and therefore is not a justifiable public health measure.8 It concludes that if neonatal circumcision were “cost-free, pain-free, and had no immediate complications, it was still more costly than not circumcising.´´8(p. 584)
Leibowitz et al. reinforce the overly confident notion, created by the extensive media coverage of 3 randomized clinical trials in Africa, that circumcision is partially effective against HIV. In doing so, they ignore both contradictory evidence and the fact that the trial circumstances are not generalizable to Africa, let alone America.9 Even if male circumcision were somewhat effective in reducing HIV infection among heterosexual adults in certain areas of high HIV prevalence, the leap to recommending population-wide neonatal circumcision in the United States is still unjustifiable.10
With nearly 50 million Americans lacking health insurance, and poor children going without many basic services, it is ethically, morally, and perhaps legally inappropriate that any Medicaid program continues to fund an elective and harmful procedure.
We applaud the 16 states that have recognized that taxpayers should not be spending money on this unnecessary procedure and the other states that are considering dropping Medicaid coverage. No state should be wasting money on infant circumcision.
Lawrence W. Green, DrPH
Ryan G. McAllister, PhD
Kent W. Peterson, MD, FACPM
John W. Travis, MD, MPH
1. Leibowitz AA, Desmond K, Belin T. Determinants and policy implications of male circumcision in the United States. Am J Public Health.
2. Williams N, Kapila L. Complications of circumcision.
Br J Surg. 1993;80:1231-1236.
3. Van Howe RS, Robson WLM. The possible role of circumcision in newborn outbreaks of communityassociated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2007;46(4):356-358.
4. Paediatric Death Review Committee. Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario. Circumcision: a minor procedure?
Paediatr Child Health. 2007;12(4):311-312.
5. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS/World Health Organization. Annex 2: HIV and AIDS estimates and data 2005 and 2003, 2006 report on the global aids epidemic. Available at:
ANN2_en.pdf. Accessed December 8, 2008.
6. Frisch M, Friis S, Kjaer SK, Melbye M. Falling incidence of penis cancer in an uncircumcised population (Denmark 1943-90). BMJ.
7. Prais D, Shoov-Furman R, Amir J. Is ritual circumcision a risk factor for neonatal urinary tract infections?
Arch Dis Child. Published online: October 6, 2008.
8. Van Howe RS. A cost-utility analysis of neonatal circumcision. Med Decis Making. 2004;24:584-601.
9. Green LW, McAllister RG, Peterson KW, Travis JW.
Male circumcision is not the `vaccine´ we have been waiting for! Future HIV Ther. 2008;2(3):193-199.
10. Sidler D, Smith J, Rode H. Neonatal circumcision does not reduce HIV/AIDS infection rates. S Afr Med J.
Please feel free to repost the above information. Gloria