Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2005/03/10: HIV and male circumcision

Doctors are conscious of the importance of ethics, but many of them have no feel for the subject. A month or so ago The Age ran a story about a Professor Short who was recommending that male babies be circumcised for health: circumcised males are much less likely to get HIV from an infected partner. I wrote the following response, but never got around to sending it:

The discovery that uncircumcised males are more likely to get HIV led to an investigation of the role of the foreskin. It was found that it contained cells that were designed to interact with their environment. There can be no doubt that these cells are there because they are beneficial in some way. Even if you don't agree with that: there is no urgency to circumcise babies, because they won't commence sexual activity for many years. So why is Prof Short explicitly recommending that babies be circumcised? The whole point is to intentionally deprive those children of their right to give informed consent to the operation. This is disgraceful.

Of course religious Australians are entitled to circumcise their children for religious reasons. Secular Australians must be allowed to discuss secular ethics without religious Australians taking offence.