VICTIM WARNS ON CIRCUMCISION
A Perth man who has received $360,000 in damages from a West Australian doctor who performed his botched circumcision operation has spoken out on the dangers of this unnecessary procedure.
The neonatal circumcision within days of his birth has left the 26-year-old man with a badly deformed penis and permanent lack of sensation. He has also suffered extreme physical pain and psychological trauma.
The man has never had sexual intercourse; the trauma of his injuries have made it almost impossible to contemplate a relationship with a woman; and he finds it hard to make friends and relate to people.
Due to a lack of available information on neonatal circumcision, he grew up believing he was born deformed and has suffered severe psychological problems from his late teens.
Early in 1992 the cause of his injuries was diagnosed as an aggressive circumcision in which both the foreskin and almost all shaft skin had been removed.
The injury prevented the penis from developing normally and he was unable to obtain a full erection until he underwent corrective surgery at the age of 18.
At this time the man was a university student and fought severe depression when he realised that the circumcision had been medically unnecessary and the damage could never be repaired.
He contemplated suicide for many months, but opted for corrective surgery as a last resort.
Skin was taken from his upper thighs and grafted to his penis, but this caused considerable pain and scarring to his legs, and his penis was left with little real sensation.
At the age of 19 the man made a serious attempt at suicide, six months after the reconstructive surgery.
"The resulting pain from the surgery was horrific and lasted for years. Even now I still get aches and pains from time to time," he said.
"With all the pain, the psychological trauma and embarrassment that went with having that surgery, it wasn't worth it."
His injuries remain to this day.
In 1997 he began legal action against the GP who circumcised him, to draw attention to circumcision and to try to eradicate the practice in Australia. The doctor admitted liability and a settlement was reached.
His lawyer, Hayden Stephens, from the law firm Slater and Gordon, said the payout of $360,000 was one of the biggest in Australian legal history for this type of injury.
"This young man has suffered a horrific consequence as a result of this negligent procedure and he now has to live with the problem for the rest of his life," Mr Stephens said.
"No amount of money will ever compensate him for the injuries he has suffered."
For more information
The victim of this episode wishes to remain anonymous.
Media can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com
Co-author of this release is Allan Huggins
International Office for Men's Health and Gender Studies,
School of Nursing and Public Health, Edith Cowan University, WA.
Phone 0412 109 984.
Information on circumcision is available on the Internet at a site approved by the British Medical Journal.
The address is www.cirp.org
MORE ON CIRCUMCISION
The victim of the botched operation is now completing a doctorate in medical science. He has extensively researched the medical literature available on circumcision and has communicated with many Australian and international experts in the area.
Unnecessary circumcisions are still performed routinely with and without anaesthetic in hospitals and general practitioners' surgeries in Australia.
Many members of the public, and particularly new parents, are not aware of the potential complications of this procedure including excessive skin removal, loss of the penis, and even death.
Mr Martin Glasson, Head of the Department of Surgery at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Westmead, Sydney, stated that many infants are brought into the hospital by parents each year due to routine circumcisions that have gone wrong.
Medical organisations in English speaking countries once recommended neonatal circumcision as a valid prophylactic procedure, and some medical practitioners still claim that circumcision reduces the incidence of penile and cervical cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV. Much of this is myth and ill-informed.
Parents want to see their children grow up to live healthy and happy lives, and many parents have consented to circumcision because the Australian medical profession convinced them it was a quick and painless procedure that was essential to avoid health problems.
The American Cancer Society issued a statement that they do not consider routine circumcision of infants or boys to be a valid or effective measure against penile or cervical cancers, and that research suggesting so is methodologically flawed and outdated.
The Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons, Australian College of Paediatrics, Australian Medical Association, British Medical Association, American Academy of Paediatrics, and the Canadian Paediatric Society have recently amended their policies on male circumcision and now state that there is no medical indication for neonatal circumcision.
However, these organisations have not taken the appropriate action needed to educate the public and advise parents of the surgical risks involved.
In 1993 the Queensland Law Reform Commission concluded that under provisions of common law, routine neonatal circumcision could be considered as criminal assault.
There is an unethical dimension to this procedure which involves damaging a healthy organ without the patient's informed consent. Many circumcised men are angry that this procedure was performed without their consent, at a time they were powerless to prevent it.
Many men have suffered significant physical and psychological trauma due to unnecessary circumcision, and feel that they have been assaulted and mutilated.
There is also the issue of circumcisions which have been performed without parental consent. Mr Chris Nichols of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in Perth, stated that up to the 1960s, male infants were routinely taken off the ward and circumcised, even when the parents' consent had not been obtained.
Later this year the authors plan to establish a research foundation and Australia wide support group to help men cope with their circumcision injuries and facilitate research and public education in regard to this important issue.
The victim of the episode has been invited to give a seminar describing his experiences at the Sixth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations, hosted by the University of Sydney in December.