An Open-Minded Pediatrician and Me – Part 2

In my last post, I told you about my conversation with a self-described “open-minded” pediatrician at the annual convention of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I was as distressed by his seeming ability to consider the circumcision question as a simple matter of “point of view,”  as I was with the magnitude of pain and harm he had caused, and the fact that thousands of boys and men were living with the consequences. I did, however, know what he meant when he said that for him to stop performing circumcisions would be “complicated.”

If this doctor stops now, what will he tell the repeat “customers,” young parents asking him to circumcise their second or third son?  What will he tell his colleagues?

If he stops, what will he tell the boys he cut who later learn that he – indeed – did put down the knife?

If he stops, and one day a young man in the small community where he practices sues him for injuries, or for lack of consent (the statute of limitations on a malpractice claim typically re-opens for a time when an individual turns 18), what defense will he offer?

On the other hand, if he doesn’t stop, how will this doctor live with his conscience – or with the consciousness that made him come to talk with us? What will he do if he botches terribly a surgery, and a baby loses half of his penis, or dies, after he knew he should stop circumcising, but didn’t?

Since the AAP conference, I’ve lost hours of sleep pondering this conversation, unable to imagine the magnitude of the suffering – one or two babies a day, week after week, month after month, year after year, strapped down and mutilated – caused by this man who took an oath to do no harm. I went online and learned that the small northeastern city where he practices has only 16,000 people. This means – again, if his numbers are correct – he has circumcised pretty much every male under the age of 25 in the community and the surrounding area.

Except his own son, that is. And by the way, what does he tell his intact son?

Let’s say your postman one day stopped by to tell you that he’d touched the genitals of all the neighborhood children, and all the children in his son’s school (though not his own child), as well as the children in the surrounding towns, over the past 25 years; and then he told you he wanted to know your point of view about that. You’d reach for the phone, and call the police.

Yet there I was, in this huge exhibit hall in Boston, standing under the bright lights of the infant formula, baby lotion, and drug companies, talking politely with a man who had cut the penises of 5000-6000 babies, but was “open-minded” and wanted to understand Intact America’s point of view.

by Georganne Chapin