• To Circumcise or Not: What Filipino Parents Need to Understand

    Rite of passage aside, is there really an upside to having boys circumcised?
    by Rachel Perez .
  • To Circumcise or Not: What Filipino Parents Need to Understand
    IMAGE TinnaPong/Shutterstock
  • Back in February, we had reported about a study on circumcision published in the World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics. Researchers from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, and other teaching hospitals reviewed data from 140 high-quality studies in Australia from 2005 to 2015. They focused on the risks of circumcision when done during infancy, as well as how well it could prevent a variety of medical conditions such urinary infection, inflammatory conditions, sexually transmitted diseases and genital cancers. They found that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks by 200 to one. 

    The study's lead author, Dr. Brian Morris, concluded, "The enormous benefit but low risk makes early infant circumcision akin to childhood vaccination."

    When we posted this on Facebook, many of the comments from non-Filipino nationals cried foul, calling the study "trash," "nonsense" and "untrue." Several cited studies and policies that go against the study's claim. We felt it was information Filipino parents may find useful; after all, in a country that sees circumcision as a rite of passage, Filipino doctors leave the decision to circumcise or to parents. Below were some of the arguments and points they made. 

    "Around two-thirds of the global male population is not circumcised."
    True. Most of the men who choose to get circumcised do it because of their faith or cultural beliefs. 

    "No health organization in the world supports infant circumcision."
    Mostly true. National medical agencies in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, U.K., Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico don't recommend the procedure outright for infants unless there's a medical reason. For circumcision of young boys, the groups leave it up to the parents to decide. 

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    "There is no medical reason to circumcise an infant."
    Hmmm. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in its 2012 policy statement that there are studies that show the "health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus, and syphilis." It also "lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime; reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life." 

    So there are some advantages of a boy being circumcised, but they do not outweigh the risks (e.g., bleeding, infection, etc.) nor is it strong enough to recommend all boys undergo the procedure. Other claims that uncircumcised boys would not be able to have kids is completely false. Some men say circumcised males won't be able to feel pleasure during sex, a claim that has not been scientifically substantiated. 

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    "Foreskin is a healthy body part. It should be left alone and not removed."
    True. The foreskin exists to protect the glans penis and is thought to contain the most sensitive nerves in the male reproductive system. Penile cancer mostly infects the foreskin, but with proper instruction on how to clean it, there is no difference between circumcised and uncircumcised boys. Still, having less foreskin may make hygiene practice easier for some men. 

    "Circumcision is a human rights violation."
    Hmmm. Pro-circumcision groups claim that circumcision is for the baby's or child's health. Anti-circumcision groups counter that the procedure, even if pain medication is used, is torture for infants and young boys. Since female circumcision is banned, so should circumcision since it's considered the clitoris of the male reproductive system.

    The United Nations (U.N) does not have one stand on the issue because it considers religious or cultural beliefs as a basic human right. 

    So should you have your son circumcised and when? We encourage you to talk to your doctor. “I would recommend it be done when they are older or during the pre-teen years so that the patient already understands why this is done,” Dr. Michelle Vergara-Dela Cruz, a diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society, told SmartParenting.com.ph in an article. She adds that at an older age, “more or less they already know how to deal with it post-circumcision wound care. Like any other surgery (major and minor), there is always the risk for infection pre- and post-procedure.”

    Every individual has the right to decide what to with their bodies, said Lisa Møller, chair of the Doctors' Association Ethics Board in Denmark. “To be circumcised should be an informed, personal choice,” she told The Independent. “It is most consistent with the individual’s right to self-determination that parents not be allowed to make this decision, but that it is left up to the individual when he has come of age.” 

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