Circumcision benefits 'outweigh risks'

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The most influential paediatricians group in the United States is now publicizing their approval for circumcision in newborn boys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh any risks and insurance companies should pay for it.

The procedure is not routinely performed in most Australian public hospitals. Circumcision of newborn boys involves the surgical removal of the foreskin and has been a procedure debated about for quite some time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is releasing their evaluation based on 10 years of evidence. The academy said the benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure “for families who choose it.”

Recent research bolstering evidence that circumcision reduces chances of infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections and penile cancer influenced the academy to update their 13-year-old policy.

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The evidence also dispelled the common belief that circumcision affects sexual pleasure later in life. It said the procedure “does not appear to adversely affect penile sexual function/sensitivity or sexual satisfaction.”

While the American Academy of Pediatrics is putting forth this view, they are still recommending that the parents of the child make the final decision. The academy also says pain relief stronger than a sugarcoated pacifier is essential, usually an injection to numb the area.

Related: Unsure about circumcision?

David Forbes, a spokesman for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ division of paediatrics and child health, said that while the academy did have an influential place, the circumcision issue would need to be thoroughly debated in Australia before any significant change in policy.

About half of baby boys nationwide in the United States undergo circumcision, or roughly 1 million each year. While that number has been declining, the country’s overall rate is much higher than in other developed nations.

Supporters of newborn male circumcision in Australia such as medical scientist Brian Morris have celebrated the revised policy.

“The new policy represents a major turnaround for the better,” Professor Morris said.

Related: Is circumcision healthy?

The policy comes amid ongoing debate over whether circumcision is medically necessary or a cosmetic procedure that critics say amounts to genital mutilation.

Activists favouring a circumcision ban made headway in putting it to vote last year in San Francisco but a judge later knocked the measure off the city ballot, ruling that regulating medical procedures is up to the state, not city officials.

In Germany, Jewish and Muslim leaders have protested a regional court ruling in June that said circumcision amounts to bodily harm. In addition, Tasmania is trying to put a ban on routine circumcision, allowing it only for cultural or religious reasons.

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Watch a video about the circumcision debate here: