Despite the warnings of experts – including the American Academy of Pediatrics – nearly half of intact American boys under 6 years old have had their foreskins forcibly retracted. It’s true. In the Spring of 2018, Intact America conducted a national survey of parents of children under the age of seven, and found that 43% of intact boys had experienced the painful and totally unnecessary forced retraction of their foreskins, most of them at the hands of physicians.
A 2017 brochure published by HealthyChildren, a program of the AAP, states unequivocally: “… foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until the foreskin fully separates, do not try to pull it back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding, and tears in the skin.” Unfortunately, messing with a boy’s foreskin can also cause infection and scarring, leading too often to doctors suggesting circumcision as a remedy for a problem they themselves created.
As more and more boys are kept intact, it’s critically important that parents, childcare workers, and medical professionals understand that a boy’s foreskin will separate naturally over time (the age of retraction varies considerably), and that only the boy himself should touch his foreskin.
Note: If your son’s foreskin was forcibly retracted, the best advice is to bathe him in plain warm water, to ease his discomfort – especially when he urinates. Do NOT continue to retract his foreskin; let the wound heal over time. A foreskin that cannot be returned to its natural position, however, could constitute a medical emergency, so seek care immediately, and inform any medical provider that you do NOT consider circumcision to be an option.
Watch for details of Intact America’s Foreskin Protection Campaign – to be announced in our July newsletter. In the meantime, if you have a story about forced foreskin retraction – either of your son or another child close to you – you can write to us at [email protected]. Please include details about the age of the child, where the forced retraction occurred, and (if you wish) the name of the medical professional(s) and/or the facility where it took place.
Unfortunately, parents who have taken a stand and said NO to the circumcision of their baby boys now have another worry: an iatrogenic* epidemic of Forced Foreskin Retraction (FFR), fueled by the same ignorance and phobias that have perpetrated the uniquely American infant circumcision industry. (I talked about forced foreskin retraction in Intact America’s October-November newsletter.) Preliminary results of a new national survey commissioned by Intact America, and conducted by the reputable polling firm Qualtrics, show that two out of five intact boys under the age of six years has had his foreskin forcibly retracted.
As part of our ongoing work, Intact America has been fighting this epidemic, publishing information about care of the intact penis, and answering personal inquiries from parents whose sons have been victims of over-zealous doctors or nurses. Another intactivist organization, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, has filed numerous official complaints on behalf of parents and their sons to state medical boards.
Now, the battle is escalating. In January 2018, Atlanta attorney David Llewellyn filed an important lawsuit against a major pediatric hospital in that city, describing that organization’s defiance of current pediatric care guidelines, and its nursing staff’s systematic violation of patients’ rights.
Alleging battery; nursing malpractice; intentional infliction of emotional distress; willful, wanton and reckless misconduct; and negligent failure to protect a patient, Park v. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta details the actions of a nurse at Children’s, who – without conversation or warning – ripped away the foreskin of an intact toddler in order to insert a urinary catheter, causing him severe pain, bleeding and emotional distress. The complaint also describes the defiant attitude taken by other hospital staff, who insisted that the hospital’s protocol calling for nurses and doctors to forcibly retract all intact boys’ foreskins was derived from current established medical recommendations, erroneously claimed that the child’s foreskin put him at risk of disease, and shamed his parents for not having had their son circumcised.
The medical literature, including guidance
from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is clear: An intact boy’s foreskin should NEVER be forcibly retracted.
If your son has been a victim of forced foreskin retraction at the hands of medical professionals, we encourage you to complain in writing to the doctor who performed the retraction and the facility where this took place. At a minimum, you should provide them with factual information, such as this article by Carmack and Milos and this information sheet. You should also file a complaint with your state’s medical board or office of professional discipline. Finally, you may wish to file a lawsuit. Should you choose to do so, Intact America can help you or your attorney with the pertinent resources. Contact us at [email protected] or write to Georganne Chapin directly at [email protected].
* Caused by the medical system. Iatrogenesis refers to any effect on a person, resulting from any activity of one or more persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health that does not support a goal of the person affected.