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The City of San Francisco will, this fall, vote on whether or not to ban the circumcision of a male minor. If passed, the act will become a misdemeanor.

Does the government have the right to infringe upon the parent's prerogative to circumcise their minor son?

asked Jun 09 '11 at 18:44

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

edited Jun 09 '11 at 19:08

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

They will then have to justify passing no legislation against the piercing of a minor daughter's ears. What is the difference?

(Jun 09 '11 at 19:05) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Many people think earrings in a little girls ears are cute. Not as many people express the same about a little boys circumcised mentula (latin).

(Jun 09 '11 at 19:42) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

People's sense of aesthetics or beauty has nothing to do with rights.

(Jun 09 '11 at 23:09) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

The difference between ear-piercing and circumcision is that presumably the girl wants the end result. No little girl's ears should be pierced against her will.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:34) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Perhaps it might be useful for some to know that studies have shown there to be long-term negative psychological effects of infant male circumcision without anesthesia. (Link: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)62456-7/fulltext)

(Jun 10 '11 at 12:22) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

More than living in a home breathing the 2nd hand smoke of chain smoking parents every hour, every day, every week, every year? More than being fed candy, ice cream and Mc Donalds at 11 pm consistently? (yes I know of a family). What is your point? We are talking about the RIGHT of a parent to adorn a child based on religious practices or cultural aesthetics. I would like to know your RATIONAL thoughts on where the line should be drawn with respect to the club of Government.

(Jun 10 '11 at 14:58) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image
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Yes, if the parents are doing it for religious reasons and not health reasons.

answered Jun 09 '11 at 20:28

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦

edited Jun 09 '11 at 20:28


Intent is irrelevant. They have to make an objective case showing that circumcision, for whatever reason, is the violation of a child's rights. Then they would have to also show the objective difference between circumcision and ear piercing. I expected a better answer from a moderator.

(Jun 09 '11 at 23:12) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Of course intent is relevant. How can you have a crime without criminal intent?

(Jun 12 '11 at 21:16) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I am never in favor of the government being involved in any way in medical decisions. Right or wrong, the government should not legislate personal issues.

How can one draw the line between religious conviction & medical necessity? We can't allow the government to make such decisions. Otherwise you are in the same debate as with abortion and Roe V Wade. By granting as a "right" for women to have abortions (as a medical right that the government could not be a part of), we have allowed individuals have the "right" to choose the life or death of another person (or potential person).

(Jun 14 '11 at 08:32) Andrew Foss Andrew%20Foss's gravatar image

Also, it is not necessary to show that circumcision for whatever reason is a violation of child's rights. That would presume something of an intrinsic value to a particular action like saying "ALL killing is wrong" or "running a red light is NEVER justified."

This answer is rather incomplete, though.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:13) Trey Givens ♦ Trey%20Givens's gravatar image
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No. Does circumcision violate the rights or ability of a child to have a full, rational, successful life? Does circumcision inhibit or permanently scar the child's mind or body from full development?

Circumcision is fundamentally a cosmetic, arbitrary, and inconsequential procedure when considered in the context of a person's mind (our primary tool of survival) and the age of the child when it typically occurs (when the child has no memory of the pain, if done without any anethesia).

I happen to think the practice and procedure is misguided and irrational, since it is based on religious traditions that have no medical or biological basis or need today. But I also think it's impossible to show that the child's rights to life and liberty as an adult have been compromised or restricted in any meaningful way. Thus, the government has no justification in preventing parents from having this procedure performed on their son.

answered Jun 09 '11 at 23:56

QEDbyBrett's gravatar image

QEDbyBrett ♦

edited Jun 09 '11 at 23:57

Would the same answer apply to the practice of female circumcision?

(Jun 10 '11 at 06:20) dujyt ♦ dujyt's gravatar image

dujyt: Please consult Wikipedia or any medical information about FGM, and answer that question yourself, considering the new facts you may have learned in the process.

(Jun 10 '11 at 07:12) patpat patpat's gravatar image

The practice is certainly a violation of the rights of the child.

By your logic, it would be permissible to insert straight pins through pinched folds of a child's skin. The mere fact that an injury is not permanent (and this is false about circumcision) doesn't mean that parents should be permitted to inflict it upon their own child.

That you are unable to see circumcision as a physical injury, but instead as an "inconsequential cosmetic procedure" is chilling. You have some sort of blindness which I don't know the cause of.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:29) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

This is a very good RIGHTS RELEVANT answer. Whether I agree with it or not. Every other answer here has been subjective. Disappointing.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:39) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

patpat: yes, I'm well aware that FGC/FGM is more invasive, injurious and life-altering to an infant girl than circumcision is to an infant boy. I posed the question as a stimulus for thought against QEDBrett's argument that circumcision cannot be shown to compromise an adult male's life in a meaningful way. Chinese foot-binding of females was once thought to be a "parent prerogative" that ensured the girl was marriageable. Ditto for FGC/FGM. However, government bans had little to no effect on curtailing either practice. I suspect government bans on circumcision in SF would fare the same.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:41) dujyt ♦ dujyt's gravatar image

I wasn't aware of the Lancet article and read a few of them. The evidence seems clear, circumcision without anethesia has long-term deleterious affects on pain response. Thank you Tetracide for sharing that. So I want to qualify my answer. It seems the government should mandate that circumcision be accompanied by anethesia, so as to minimize or eliminate the pain. Causing intentional pain would be grounds for charges of child abuse, against the parents and physician or religious leader. But I still don't see any basis for outlawing the procedure itself.

(Jun 12 '11 at 16:59) QEDbyBrett ♦ QEDbyBrett's gravatar image

female circumcision is a procedure that is not only disfiguring but is also disabling. Male circumcision at one time could be justified based on hygienic concerns. That is not a concern at this point in civilization. Unfortunately, it has become so intertwined with religion, culture, custom, and habit that it continues to be done. All that said, how is it that so many objectivists seem to support this intrusion into personal and familial decision making by government? Smoking is clearly a greater danger than circumcision. Why not make using a cigarette a misdemeanor?

(Jun 12 '11 at 17:20) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

Yes, circumcision inhibits and permanently scars a child's body from full development: circumcision is the removal of the foreskin. If you don't have it, then it can't grow and you can't use it.

To characterize it as inconsequential is to deny the facts of what circumcision actually is. There are certainly consequences to it.

If I, an adult, were incapacitated for some reason and someone else had to make medical decisions for me, it would be a violation of my rights to make decisions based on purely cosmetic reasons. Circumcision is a similar violation.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:10) Trey Givens ♦ Trey%20Givens's gravatar image

So if you're in a coma, cosmetic facial reconstruction is a violation of your rights? Do you have some sort of advance medical directive stating this, or you think it's a default?

(Jun 15 '11 at 13:30) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Absolutely yes. Circumcision is an ancient, barbaric practice which has somehow survived to the present day due to ignorance and conformity with tradition.

The kind of circumcision we are talking about is the mutilation of the body of an intact, healthy baby boy.

This issue is not about whether the boy can remember the pain. It's not even about the pain as such. It's about the injury. Should it be legal to physically and permanently injure a healthy baby?

The answer is an obvious and outraged NO!, but our culture keeps on doing it for no good reason. We only do it because our parents did it to us.

This ancient barbarism must stop.

answered Jun 10 '11 at 10:18

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Jun 10 '11 at 14:59

But you evade the piercing of ears.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:34) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Any child should have the legal right to refuse to get his/her ears pierced. And no ears should be pierced before the child in question understands fully the nature of piercing. The only reason we perform circumcision on babies is that if they knew what we were doing to them, they would scream in protest, and that would be inconvenient.

(Jun 10 '11 at 10:40) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

So therefore are you saying that you would be FOR government legislation against the piercing of a minor's ears?

(Jun 10 '11 at 14:49) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Yes, if it is against the child's will.

(Jun 10 '11 at 14:56) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

And if the child is not yet cognizant of the act, are you still proposing a law be introduced against the practice? Also, when did a child have the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Does he not only have the right to life? Since when does a parent not retain the right to guide a child's activities wrt his longterm happiness and in so doing limit his liberty according to the rules of the home?

(Jun 10 '11 at 15:05) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

The right to life includes the right not to be physically injured. This right supersedes any "rules of the home". Circumcision constitutes child abuse.

(Jun 10 '11 at 15:25) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I'd like to see the objective proof (proof that no one can rationally doubt) that circumcision causes permanent physical injury (not just permenent physical change) and that it confers absolutely no physical benefits.

Even then, the 18 year old age of consent in the SF law is too high.

(Jun 12 '11 at 14:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The permanence of the injury is not the point. The long-term effects are not the point. The point is that circumcision is the cutting of a baby for no good medical reason. Once that knife pierces skin, the child's rights are violated. If the child has a tumor or something, which cutting him would help remove, thereby saving him from greater suffering or death, that would be one thing. But regardless of long term maybe, could be benefits, cutting a child is simply wrong. That's all there is to it. There's no pressing reason to cut, so it should be outlawed.

(Jun 12 '11 at 17:06) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If you want to cut a baby, the law better require you have a damn good reason to do so. Tradition is not a damn good reason. Neither is the possibility that you'll reduce the child's long-term risk of some disease assuming he chooses to be uncleanly. Teach the child cleanliness -- don't cut his penis.

Have we no sympathy for an innocent baby boy? Must we continue to permit adults to put baby boys through a very painful procedure at such a young age? It's well known that sensitivity to pain decreases with age. How dare we hurt babies who barely know what the world is like yet!

(Jun 12 '11 at 17:11) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Just what are we trying to teach babies by making them suffer so young?

(Jun 12 '11 at 17:18) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

First of all, the phrase "physically and permanently injure" was introduced by you. Do you not have objective proof that this is what occurs? You said it is not about the pain, it is about the injury. Now you're using an argument based on pain.

Now you're saying that "regardless of long term, maybe, could be benefits, cutting [the skin of] a child is simply wrong". You were much closer to convincing me with the "permanent physical injury" argument. "X is simply wrong" isn't going to do it. If you want to put a parent in jail, you need a damn good, objective reason to do so.

(Jun 12 '11 at 20:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Good catch on the pain versus injury point. The fundamental is physical injury -- the pain and permanence are not essential. The bruise from punching a man in the face isn't permanent, but it's still a violation of his rights.

That circumcision is injury is perceptually obvious. The proper comparison to make is between cutting a child to save him from greater harm versus cutting him for no good reason.

Surgery ought only to be initiated to stop an objective threat, not an imagined one.

I never said jail. But yes, parents should be forced not to perform circumcision on babies.

(Jun 13 '11 at 11:05) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I don't see how "injury" is perceptually obvious. Eliminate the pain and the permanence and you could make all the arguments you're making about cutting a child's hair or fingernails. (Cutting a man's hair isn't permanent, but it is a violation of his rights.) Or arguably even a flu shot (possibly might stop some illnesses that the child might get from being uncleanly).

As for you not saying jail, you said it constitutes child abuse and that it should be outlawed. If not jail, how would you enforce the law?

(Jun 13 '11 at 20:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If circumcision should be outlawed, you are saying the state's obligation to protect an optional (arbitrary) piece of skin from removal on a child outweighs the parent's rights to decide what is best for their child's life. What about parent's choices for things that are far from arbitrary, and clearly adverse for the child's life? People who believe prayer can cure illness and refuse medical treatment for their kids...when should the state intervene, if ever? (this is probably a good question in itself.)

(Jun 13 '11 at 23:44) QEDbyBrett ♦ QEDbyBrett's gravatar image

What Mr. Paquette is saying is that an elective cosmetic surgery on an infant violates that infant's rights. Period. Parent's may not purposefully harm their child for no good reason. The issue cannot be simplified by saying "the state [is] protect[ing] an optional (arbitrary) piece of skin from removal." That is a straw-man argument. What the issue is, fundamentally, is a child's rights, and in what particular circumstances do parents violate those rights. Circumcision of an infant is one of them because infants cannot rationally give their consent.

(Jun 14 '11 at 00:41) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

"optional (arbitrary) piece of skin". Would you say an earlobe is "optional"? How about that loose extra skin on your elbow? Or perhaps some skin on your cheek? Or anywhere else on your body?

I'm totally disgusted by how parent-centric those who are arguing with me are. Who needs more protection? Parents or babies? Having a baby doesn't endow you with absolute power over its health and well-being. You must, morally and legally, take care of it rather than injure it.

Those against me are blinded by tradition, protecting their "right" to cut a baby's penis. That's a sick thing to covet.

(Jun 14 '11 at 00:51) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

What if a parent wished his child to grow up blind, so that he could not "see the horrors of the world"? So, while the child is an infant, he had the child's eyes removed. Should that be allowed?

I think most would say no. Why? Because eyes are necessary? Clearly that many blind people can survive indicates that eyes are not necessary.

The same argument could be made for pinky fingers, or some toes, or the tip of the nose, or any number of other parts of the body.

Many parts of the body are desirable, yet optional, and yet we don't remove them from a baby -- only the foreskin.

(Jun 14 '11 at 01:04) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Tetracide has it right, though consent is not the fundamental. Parents DO have a right to override their children's consent -- but that right is not unlimited. It stops at physical injury.

(Jun 14 '11 at 01:17) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Consent is irrelevant when you're talking about a 4-day-old. A 4-day-old cannot express his desires, let alone decide what is in his best long term interest. That is the job of the guardian, generally the parents.

I don't think any rational person will argue with me that the removal of a child's eyes will have an objective negative effect on his life. If someone did, I could present studies and arguments which clearly and objectively show it would.

Regarding foreskin, there are conflicting, disputed studies showing both harms and benefits of removal.

Then there's the problem of religion.

(Jun 14 '11 at 09:45) anthony anthony's gravatar image

One could almost surely show that forcing a child to go to church every Sunday has an objective negative effect on his life. Were a child an adult, and not a child, forcing him to go to chruch would obviously be a criminal infringement of his rights. Yet we as a society, at least in the United States, allow parents to do this. I think this is largely for pragmatic reasons, since if we did not erect a wall between state and religion it is likely that not forcing your child to go to church would be what is outlawed.

(Jun 14 '11 at 09:55) anthony anthony's gravatar image

By the way, John, you have not addressed why fingernail clipping and hair cutting (without consent, and sometimes under protest) are okay. Is it because of the lack of pain?

Should we be charging parents with child abuse for clipping their children's fingernails or cutting their hair without consent?

(Jun 14 '11 at 10:38) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Consent is not the issue; that's off the track. A baby has not reached the age of consent. Church, and other forms of stupid treatment of a child are not the issue either right now.

The issue is injury. Not permanence, not physical long term effect, but simple injury.

To cut a child's hair or nails is not to injure him.

A parent has a right to override a child's consent. He does not have a right to injure a healthy child.

I will not, here and now, get into a discussion about the nature of what constitutes physical injury. Any adult should know what "injury" means.

(Jun 14 '11 at 10:58) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I know what injury is. When a child is injured, he is worse off after the injury than before it. Since a guardian has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of a ward, to injure him - to intentionally act against his best interests - is to commit a crime. But you have not shown objectively that circumcision is injury. You have not shown objectively that a child is worse off after circumcision than before it. As far as I can tell there are conflicting, disputed studies showing both harms and benefits of circumcision.

(Jun 14 '11 at 17:56) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Prove conclusively and objectively that a child is worse off after circumcision than before it, publish it widely enough so that all physicians should be expected to have read it, and I'd say you can at least charge the physician with a crime for performing it, even if not the parents as they might not know enough to know they are harming the child.

(Jun 14 '11 at 17:59) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I don't think you know what "objectively" means.

If I present to you two men, one of which has a bloody, bandaged penis, and one who does not, which one would you say is injured?

Is the man with the bloody penis worse off? Must we wait 5 or 10 years to be sure?

There's no more arguing this point with you, anthony. You have a blindness to facts.

(Jun 14 '11 at 18:06) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I do know what "objectively" means. Among other things it means based on facts, and not emotion. It is the opposite of thinking of a bloody, bandaged penis and accepting whatever intuition pops into your head.

The blood and bandages are from the surgery. It is certainly not correct, in context (*), to say that all surgery causes injury.

(*) The context being the statement that a parent does not have the right to injure a child.

(Jun 15 '11 at 09:00) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Piercing ears is an interesting subtlety in this discussion, but it does not really get to the core issue here due to the difference in the nature of the two procedures.

Circumcision irreparably scars the child's penis with the removal of that tissue. Poking tiny holes in a child's ears can be undone and has no impact on the function of the ear.

But, I would argue that piercing the ears of a child under a certain age should be outlawed, but permitted on children above that age because the impact of the decision to get ears pierced is minor enough to be left to a minor at some point.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:21) Trey Givens ♦ Trey%20Givens's gravatar image

I apologize to Anthony for my "blindness to facts" comment. The civility of his response is to be commended.

That said, all surgery does require injury. Injury to the skin.

Medically speaking, injury is not a long-term, "this versus that" concept. Injury is whatever might physically alter the integrity of the body.

Is all injury improper? No. Injuring the skin to remove an infected appendix is a medically proper thing to do.

You have to break some eggs to make a cake. But breaking them for no good reason is stupid.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:36) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I ultimately agree with Trey on ear-piercing.

I wish to emphasize, though, that the issue here is not the long-term physical effect of the injury, but the immediate effect of senseless injury as such.

No child should have to live through the injustice of senseless injury at the hands of his own parents.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:53) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I think you are equivocating on injury when you say on one hand that all surgery involves injury and say on the other hand that a parent does not have a right to [direct someone to] injure his child. Clearly surgery on a 4-day-old is sometimes okay. You agree with this.

And I agree with you that surgery for no good reason is stupid (and wrong). However, I think parents should be given a great deal of latitude in deciding for themselves what constitutes a good reason, and not have to get permission from the state to do what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

(Jun 15 '11 at 12:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision". Until they are proven wrong, I don't think the state has any right to ban the procedure.

(Jun 15 '11 at 12:14) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the benefits of circumcision are not significant enough to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure and that circumcision is not medically necessary." -- familydoctor.org

There are, of course, potential medical benefits of circumcision. I do not dispute that. One obvious benefit is that you are more likely to keep your penis clean without effort.

I don't equivocate on injury. I hold that injuring your child (e.g. with surgery) must only be done when medically necessary.

Medical necessity and hygienic convenience are not the same thing.

(Jun 15 '11 at 21:02) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

That said, if some new technology came along that could double the length of human life, and make it demonstrably much better, but it required surgery on a baby to have these advantages, I would consider it. I'm not against infant surgery for good reasons whether they be to remedy a medical problem, or to dramatically improve life. Circumcision does neither.

(Jun 15 '11 at 21:15) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If a new technology comes along which could double the length of human life, and make it demonstably much better, I don't want you to consider whether or not my son and I have the right to have the procedure performed on my son. That's one reason why this law worries me so much. If it's a judgement call regarding my son's life, I want to make that judgement call, not you, not the state.

I don't think the threshold of "medically necessary" is sufficient. But I'm not 100% sure what the term means. Is a flu shot medically necessary? Reconstuctive surgery to fix a deformed but fuctional face?

(Jun 20 '11 at 19:28) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Yes. No one has the right to choose non-medically-necessary (elective) surgery resulting in permanent alteration of the body for anyone else.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against routine circumcision.

Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.

In the absence of clear benefits or a medical indication (such as hypospadias, or adhesions), and in light of the risks of the procedure itself, the decision to circumcise ought to be left to the individual himself (at such a time as he is capable of making this decision--adulthood).

Of course parents have the right to put their children through surgeries or other permanent medical procedures when there is a clear medical indication for it, and when they have determined that the benefits outweigh the risks. Indeed, my own parents made the decision to put me through eye surgery when I was a child, and it was a proper exercise of their responsibilities as my parents. I am clearly better off today for having had the procedure (I would probably have gone blind in one of my eyes had I not had the surgery).

But decisions about permanent alterations of the body when not medically indicated ought to be left for the child and the child alone to make when he is fully capable of making such decisions.

A legal ban on non-medically-necessary circumcisions protects the rights of individuals to make this decision for themselves.

Full disclosure: I have two sons, one of whom is circumcised. I wish we'd considered our decision to circumcise our first son in light of his right as an individual to make decisions about his own body.

answered Jun 15 '11 at 09:31

rationaljenn's gravatar image

rationaljenn ♦

edited Jun 15 '11 at 10:14

Thanks, Jenn. This is an excellent answer -- and less purple than mine.

(Jun 15 '11 at 10:38) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If a child is in a car accident and his face is deformed as a result, parents should only be allowed to perform medically necessary surgery, and not cosmetic surgery? What about non-surgical alterations, such as non-surgical otoplasty to correct ears which stick out?

Also, can you define medically necessary and/or elective (note that they do not mean the same thing).

(Jun 15 '11 at 12:23) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I think there's a difference btwn cosmetic surgery after a deforming accident & cosmetic surgery performed where there is no medical indication that it is necessary. I'm opposed to any procedure w/o a clear indication that it's necessary.

For otoplasty, I'd be inclined to wait until the child was old enough to have a say in the matter. Same goes for ear piercing or similar body alterations.

My right as a parent to make these decisions is limited by their right to determine what is done with their bodies. Unless there's a medical reason to do it NOW, then the procedure should be delayed.

(Jun 15 '11 at 17:24) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image

I still don't understand what you mean by "necessary". Necessary for what? How is purely cosmetic facial reconstruction surgery after an accident "necessary"? What if the disfigurement is congenital (but purely cosmetic)?

For otoplasty and ear piercings, I realize you would personally be inclined to wait (I believe I read on your blog that you don't even require your children to keep their hair trimmed). But are you saying there should be a law against it?

Finally, I don't understand your second to last paragraph. A 4-day-old does not have a right to determine what is done with his body.

(Jun 15 '11 at 18:19) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Necessary to better the health of the individual. I don't think "potential benefits" of circs are enough to justify it as a necessary medical procedure. Also, there are benefits to remaining uncircumcised, too (extra nerve endings for sexual pleasure, for example).

Given that there are only "potential" benefits and that it's a permanent procedure, I believe parents ought to defer this decision to the child when he's older.

Also, nowhere have I said that all cosmetic surgery is elective. It's not. Cosmetic doesn't mean "elective." I'm using it in the clinical sense.

(Jun 15 '11 at 18:42) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image

One more thing and then I'll leave this, as I think my original answer is more than sufficient: 4 day old babies do not have the capability to make decisions, which is why such decisions are the parents' job.

I think I've made it clear that I do not think infants have the right (or capability) to make such decisions. What I'm saying is that parents ought to protect the child's rights for him until he is capable of handling the job himself. That includes not putting him through non-medically necessary irreversible procedures before he can consent to them.

(Jun 15 '11 at 18:45) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image

If cosmetic doesn't imply elective, I must have a mistaken understanding of "cosmetic", "elective", or both.

(Jun 15 '11 at 19:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Cosmetic, in the way I've been thinking of it, means a particular type of procedure that changes the look of the body. So for example, the surgery to correct hypospadias, a birth defect where the opening of the urethra is not at the end of the penis, is medical indicated and it's performed by a plastic surgeon. Though, upon looking it up, it seems the term "reconstructive" surgery might better apply.

Elective cosmetic procedures would include breast implants or reductions for purely aesthetic reasons, and, I think, routine infant circumcision.

(Jun 15 '11 at 19:18) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image
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Asked: Jun 09 '11 at 18:44

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Last updated: Jun 20 '11 at 19:28