Circumcision became a topic of heated debate decades ago. In Western society, some believe that circumcision is a necessary procedure that can be beneficial for all while others note that it should be a decision of every person who undergoes the procedure at the very least (Earp, 2013). Many people believe that infant circumcision should be banned while others think that all nations enjoy the right to have their own beliefs and rituals. This paper includes a discussion of human, medical, and ethical issues associated with this procedure.
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Human and Ethical Issues
One of the major issues related to circumcision is concerned with the right to choose. In some cultures, this procedure is a necessity just like many other cultural norms. In the majority of cases, male infants or boys undergo this procedure (Adler, 2016). They do not have the right to choose as all boys of certain cultural and ethnic backgrounds have to undergo this procedure. Moreover, they do not even understand what circumcision is. Boys have to go through significant pain without a clear understanding of the reasons for their suffering.
Circumcision, as a tradition, is associated with a dilemma. On the one hand, all nations and individuals have the right to have their own beliefs and values. If some people believe that certain procedures are beneficial for the physical or spiritual well-being of a person, they can exist. On the other hand, some traditions and norms can hardly be accepted globally (or in other regions). For instance, the inclusion of circumcision as a regular medical procedure (which is covered by Medicaid) can be regarded as a violation of some principles of American society. In the Western world, the procedure is often regarded as barbaric, so its legal status is quite controversial. Children’s rights are violated as the procedure can have numerous health implications, but these patients cannot decide on their participation.
Medical or Ethical Issues?
Apart from the ethical issues associated with the right to choose, circumcision can also be regarded as a medical procedure that is related to certain ethical issues as well. Circumcision is the only option when treating some health conditions (for example, phimosis) (Wamai, Morris, Bailey, Klausner, & Boedicker, 2015). Like any other procedure, it is often discussed, and patients (or their caregivers) are informed about benefits and threats. At that, there are still many gaps in this area as the benefits and risks associated with circumcision are still insufficiently researched.
For instance, some practitioners and researchers believe that this procedure is beneficial for the treatment of such a serious health issue as HIV/AIDS (Wamai et al., 2015). Nonetheless, the benefits are rather controversial as opposing findings are reported. The effectiveness of circumcision can also be overestimated as religious beliefs can shape male’s behavior rather than procedure. In simple terms, men’s healthy sexual behaviors (promulgated in certain religious groups) become the major preventive measure while the procedure itself has little to do with HIV/AIDS prevention.
At the same time, numerous health risks associated with circumcision have been reported. For instance, infections or bleeding, as well as other complications, often occur as a result of the procedure under discussion (Adler, 2016). The pain associated with the procedure can also have some health implications. These risks outweigh possible (and often hypothetical) health benefits, which makes it reasonable to regard the procedure as a last resort when no other treatment is possible. In all cases, the patient should be the one to decide whether the procedure can be implemented. The patient should be informed about all possible risks and benefits as well as the gaps existing in the research. It is also essential to continue exploring hazards and benefits as well as the health, social, cultural, economic implications of the procedure.
On balance, it is possible to note that circumcision is associated with various health risks while some researchers try to prove that health benefits are also substantial. In many cultures, this procedure is common and necessary. Male infants or children have to undergo circumcision while it is practiced among certain ethnic and religious groups in Western society. Since health risks outweigh possible benefits, circumcision should be used when other treatments fail or are not possible. Of course, it can be inappropriate to ban the practice in Western countries as individuals should enjoy their right to practice their religious rituals.
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However, the legal status of this procedure should remain unchanged. Circumcision should be implemented only in particular cases, and it cannot be covered within Medicaid since it violates some American values. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that circumcision is both ethical and medical issues, but medical concerns are often confined to particular health conditions. The major ethical issue related to the procedure in question is associated with people’s right to choose. The right of choice, however, is also manifold as it is associated with people’s right to choose religious rituals to practice as well as people’s (mainly, children’s) choice to undergo circumcision.
Adler, P. (2016). The draft CDC circumcision recommendations: Medical, ethical, legal, and procedural concerns. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 24(2), 239-264.
Earp, B. (2013). The ethics of infant male circumcision. Journal of Medical Ethics, 39(7), 418-420.
Wamai, R., Morris, B., Bailey, R., Klausner, J., & Boedicker, M. (2015). Male circumcision for protection against HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa: The evidence in favour justifies the implementation now in progress. Global Public Health, 10(5-6), 639-666.