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Circumcision’s Ethical and Medical Implications

Infant circumcision is highly disputable. Researchers and health practitioners have different perspectives on the significance of the procedure. Moreover, the recent study findings indicate substantial ethical controversies regarding infant circumcision. While some people suggest that circumcision provides medical benefits for both males and females, the others consider it an unreasonable and unethical act and claim that the procedure should be forbidden. In the given paper, we will analyze the ethical and medical implications of circumcision to understand its value better.

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Circumcision is seen in distinct cultures differently. For instance, Shweder (2013) observes that people perceive it as a morally acceptable customary procedure applicable for both genders in some African countries, but, in the USA, people tend to accept male circumcision yet are mostly hostile to female circumcision. Activists from the western cultural background continuously advocate against female circumcision because they perceive it as harmful to girls’ physical and psychological well-being. According to Shweder (2013), some US and European organizations also make efforts to prohibit male circumcision because, from their point of view, it is a form of “genital mutilation and child abuse” (p. 349). This idea can be justified by the fact that most of the surgeries are carried out on the infants when all the responsibility for decision making is laid on the caregivers. Based on this, people against circumcision claim that the procedure on both females and males violates human rights by depriving children of a right to physical integrity (Shweder, 2013).

We may now presume that the critical argument used by the opponents of neonatal and child circumcision in the debates is children’s inability to give their informed consent. Simultaneously, researchers have found evidence for multiple long-term positive impacts of the genital modification on male health. For example, circumcised individuals are usually associated with higher resistance to HIV and other infections (Alkhenizan & Elabd, 2016).

According to Jacobs (2013), parents should decide on the procedure, taking into account their children’s best interests. It means that in the face of any risks of procedure-induced health complications (e.g., the lack of a physician’s expertise, or a child’s unwillingness), caregivers should refuse to circumcise the child even if their customs and religious traditions require it. Simultaneously, there is no apparent need for children to be circumcised as the procedure is usually not needed by the medical records, and its administration is not dictated by any critical health conditions. In this way, parents may only consider the indirect benefits of the surgery. Jacobs (2013) observes that although some medical organizations consider it unethical, neonatal male circumcision is neutral – it neither contributes to health improvement nor threatens a child’s physical well-being. Therefore, caregivers can make decisions only based on their opinions regarding the value of the procedure.

Overall, infant circumcision is the complicated one as the children are often not provided with a choice. The problem is that most procedures are involuntary – a lot of adolescents or small children may frequently be forced to undergo painful surgeries against their will. Based on this, it is possible to say that the orientation towards the principle of the best individual’s interests may be an ethical justification for circumcision. Caregivers should necessarily take into consideration health factors and potential risks that may negatively affect individual well-being.


Alkhenizan, A., & Elabd, K. (2016). Non-therapeutic infant male circumcision: Evidence, ethics, and international law perspectives. Saudi Medical Journal, 37(9), 941–947. Web.

Jacobs, A. J. (2013). The ethics of circumcision of male infants. Ethical Reflections, 15(1), 60-65.

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Shweder, R. A. (2013). The goose and the gander: The genital wars. Global Discourse, 3(2), 348-366. Web.

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