19 Mar, 13 | by BMJ
Guest Post by Brian Earp
The Journal of Medical Ethics is pleased to announce the forthcoming release of a special issue – “The Ethics of Male Circumcision” - to be published in full in the coming days. Selected papers have already been posted Online First and can be seen by clicking here. Contributions cover a wide range of perspectives, and were invited from leading legal scholars, bioethicists, political theorists, pediatricians, and medical historians with expertise in this area. All essays were subjected to rigorous peer review. A list of main contributors and highlights from the arguments showcased in this Special Issue can be found below.
Recent events have re-ignited controversy around the oft-debated issue of the moral and legal permissibility of infant male circumcision.
According to a recent German court ruling, circumcising minors on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm. The court held that children have fundamental rights to bodily integrity and self-determination that cannot be outweighed by the right of parents to practice their religion and raise their children as they see fit. German chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that the ruling was an affront to religious liberty, while anti-circumcision groups as well as a number of ethicists hailed it as a victory for child rights. In December of 2012, the German parliament passed a law to protect religious circumcision from future legal threats.
Meanwhile, in New York City, health officials recently succeeded in enacting a consent form requirement for circumcision after it was revealed that dozens of infants have contracted herpes in the last decade from a form of the surgery practiced by some Orthodox Jews. This form, called , involves the sucking of blood directly off of the infant’s penis. Disagreements about the relative importance of religious tradition versus health concerns have shaped the ensuing controversy there.
Finally, in late summer of 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new circumcision policy statement and technical report, in which the child health organization suggested that the possible health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks and complications. This pronouncement was cited favourably by some commentators, while other groups, such as Doctors Opposing Circumcision, issued harsh criticisms. The Journal of Medical Ethics announces today that it is hosting a continuation of this debate in the pages of its Special Issue, publishing a further critique of the AAP report and policy statement, alongside a formal reply by the AAP. more…