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Circumcision is a controversial issue. Media professionals have ethical and public obligations to report different views on controversial issues. However, American media articles on circumcision typically report only a debatable potential benefit without also informing the public of the immediate and lifelong physical, sexual, and psychological harm of this misunderstood genital surgery.
Circumcision causes significant pain and trauma, behavioral and neurological changes in infants, potential parental stress from persistent crying of infants (colic), disrupted bonding between parent and child, and risk of surgical complications. Consequences of circumcision on men include loss of a natural, healthy, functioning body part, reduced sexual sensitivity and pleasure, and potential psychological problems.
Some doctors refuse to perform circumcisions because of ethical reasons. Circumcision is viewed by many professionals as violating principles of medicine, law, and human rights.
Clearly, there is plenty of information about circumcision that is not being reported. A critical examination of circumcision can contribute to the future sexual and psychological health of men and society. Urge the media to stop publishing biased, pro-circumcision articles and to include reporting on the harm of circumcision so that parents can be truly informed.
Subject: Lack of Balance in Circumcision Reporting
Journalists have professional and ethical obligations to present different views on controversial issues. Unfortunately, most reporting on the topic of male infant circumcision tends to be virtually one-sided, claiming a debatable potential health benefit, and ignoring the inherent harm of this genital surgery. We the undersigned want balanced reporting on circumcision.
Parents sometimes make a circumcision decision that they later deeply regret. Many parents are unaware that among the harmful effects of circumcision are significant pain and trauma, behavioral and neurological changes in infants, potential parental stress from persistent crying of infants (colic), disrupted bonding between parent and child, loss of a natural, healthy, functioning body part, and risk of surgical complications. In the long term the consequences of circumcision include reduced sexual pleasure, potential psychological problems, and unknown negative effects that have not been studied.
For these reasons, some doctors refuse to perform circumcisions because of ethical considerations. Circumcision is viewed by many academics and professionals as violating principles of medicine, law, and human rights. Clearly, there is plenty of information about circumcision that is not being reported.
The pro-circumcision bias in American culture and media reflects the pro-circumcision bias in American medicine. This bias influences who chooses to study circumcision, what questions are studied and what questions are ignored, and which studies are approved for publication. Most American medical studies that assess the advisability of circumcision focus on the search for a presumed benefit. (For example, they refuse to study circumcision and erectile dysfunction. A survey in a men's health journal found that circumcised men were 4.53 times more likely to use an erectile dysfunction drug.)
This bias is consistent with an American Academy of Pediatrics Circumcision Policy Statement Task Force member's statement that the previous committee was formed "to determine if there was scientific evidence to justify circumcision." The answer is limited by the assumption in the statement of the problem. Consequently, the existing Policy uses about ten times more space discussing potential benefits as compared to potential harm.
American circumcision studies have found dozens of "benefits," from treating epilepsy and masturbation in the late 1800s to preventing sexually transmitted diseases today. Though such claims generally do not withstand scrutiny by medical policy committees, their continued publication over the years has led to medical myths while raising questions about some researchers' motives. Circumcision advocates' careers, reputations, and associated funding depend on finding potential benefits for circumcision.
Circumcision advocates are using the media to promote their agenda with debatable studies that have been reviewed by other circumcision advocates but not by circumcision critics. The public deserves more complete information. We urge you to keep journalism principles in mind when reporting about circumcision and take the following steps:
1. Report on circumcision harm so that parents can be truly informed, rather than misled by myths and debatable claims.
2. Contact circumcision critics before routinely publishing pro-circumcision claims and provide equal space for a rebuttal.
3. Do not rely solely on presumed authorities (e.g., American Academy of Pediatrics or doctors who echo AAP views) because they tend to have a pro-circumcision bias.
4. Read published journal articles written by circumcision critics (contact Circumcision Resource Center for suggestions).
5. Examine your own biases if you are circumcised, have circumcised sons, or belong to a group that circumcises.
A critical examination of circumcision can contribute to the future sexual and psychological health of men and society.
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