Circumcision and Law

The Law of Circumcision

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Abstract

The lawfulness of non-therapeutic circumcision of children is unclear. This article examines the position of the non-therapeutic amputative operation under law.

Introduction

Male circumcision is an injurious operation that irreversibly excises and amputates large amount of functional nerve-bearing erogenous skin and mucosa from the penis.[1] The part amputated, called the foreskin or prepuce, has many physiological functions including:
  • protection from infection.[2]
  • prevention of meatal stenosis in boys.[3]
  • provide heathy emolients to the underlying glans penis.[2]
  • facilitation of penetration during intercourse.[4]
  • reduction of friction, chaffing, and  abrasions during intercourse.[5]
  • provision of sensation.[6] [7]
  • provision of pleasure to the female partner.[8]
Male circumcision (MC) is performed on both adults and children for therapeutic reasons and for non-therapeutic reasons.
Surgical operations of all kinds are acts of battery unless the patient or his designated representative grants informed consent. Informed consent means that the attending medical doctors must provide the patient or, if the patient is incompetent, his surrogate with all material information on the proposed treatment, alternatives to that treatment, expected outcomes, possible complications, and the like.
The non-therapeutic circumcision of children is a common practice in English-speaking nations. This paper will examine lawfulness of non-therapeutic circumcision of children in Australia, Canada, and the United States.
 
This article is under construction.

British Common Law

British Common Law, which was developed over centuries by British Courts, forms the basis for the law that prevails in England, Wales, Austtralia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and other English-speaking nations. 
Sir William Blackstone summarized the laws of England in his justly famous Commentary on the Laws of England,[9] which was published in several volumes in the years 1765-1769. Blackstone’s Commentary was the principal source of law in the British colonies in America and elsewhere.
Blackstone covered the absolute rights of individuals in Chapter One of Book One. The first listed right is the right of personal security. Blackstone said:

The right of personal security consists in a person’s legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of this life, his limbs, his health, and his reputation.

Blackstone covered the law of parent and child in chapter 116 of Book One. Blackstone made several significant points:
  • Parents owe their children maintenance, protection, and education.
  • Parental rights derive from parental duty to their children. Parents are given rights to enable them to carry out their obligations to their children.
Blackstone also pointed out that parents have a duty to defend the person of the child against attack.

References

  • Taylor JR, Lockwood AP, Taylor AJ. The prepuce: specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision. Br J Urol 1996;77:291-5. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/anatomy/taylor/
  • Fleiss P, Hodges F, Van Howe RS. Immunological functions of the human prepuce. Sex Trans Inf 1998;74(5):364-7. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/disease/STD/fleiss3/
  • Freud P. The ulcerated urethral meatus in male children. J Pediatr 1947;31(4):131-41. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/complications/freud1/
  • Taves D. The intromission function of the foreskin. Med Hypotheses 2002;59(2):180. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/anatomy/taves1/
  • Warren J, Bigelow J. The case against circumcision. Br J Sex Med 1994; Sept/Oct: 6-8. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/general/warren2/
  • Sorrells ML, Snyder JL, Reiss MD, et al. Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis. BJU Int 2007;99:864-9.
  • Hill G. The ridged band of the human prepuce. Knol 2008. Available at
  • Bensley GA, Boyle GJ. Effects of male circumcision on female arousal and orgasm. N Z Med J 2003;116(1181):595-6. Available at http://www.cirp.org/library/sex_function/bensley1/
  • Sir William Blackstone. Commentary on the Laws of England. (1765-9) Available at http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/blackstone