Robert S. Van Howe, M.D.

Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations,
University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9-11, 1996.

While most other countries have abandoned the practice of routine neonatal circumcision, the United States continues to have the highest rate of circumcision performed for non-religious reasons. This phenomenon is the result of the lack of children's rights and informed consent, treating circumcision differently than any other surgical procedure, censorship in american medical journals, inability of the medical community to treat the issue rationally, general ignorance in both the medical and lay communities, exploitation of the mainstream medical journals by pro-circumcision zealots, the utilization of scare tactics in the lay literature, and continuing third-party reimbursement. Future directives include demonstrating circumcision's obsolescence, challenging the rationale of third-party payment, aggressively countering the various circumcision "myths," demanding that circumcision be held to the same scientific and ethical standards as other surgical procedures, and challenging circumcision advocates to present a balanced non-biased view of the issue.

[The complete paper is published in Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy, New York: Plenum Press, 1997 (ISBN 0-306-45589-7).]

Robert S. Van Howe, M.D., received his Doctor of Medicine from Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University in Chicago, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and practices at Marshfield Clinic's Lakeland Center in Minocqua, Wisconsin. His work on the issue of circumcision includes a letter, "A perspective on controversies about neonatal circumcision," published in Clin Pediatr Phila in 1995, a poster presentation at Child Health 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1995, with George C. Denniston, "The Controversy Over Circumcision, USA," and two presentations of his own research at the Strategies for Intactivists Conference, Evanston, Illinois, 1996, "Variations in Penile Appearance and Findings" and "Neonatal Circumcision: Cost-Utility Analysis."

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