J Med Ethics 39:415 doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101605
  • The concise argument

Medical, religious and social reasons for and against an ancient rite

  1. Bennett Foddy, Associate Editor
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bennett Foddy, Department of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Suite 8, Littlegate House, 16–17 St. Ebbes St., Oxford OX1 1PT, UK; bennett.foddy{at}

This month's issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics is a special issue devoted entirely to the ethics of infant male circumcision—an elective surgical practice that is currently performed on around a third of the world's male population.1

The last time the Journal ran a symposium on this issue was in 2004, and there has been relatively scant discussion of the practice in the ethical literature since then. Three events that took place in the past year have brought the ethics of infant male circumcision back into the global spotlight.

First, in April of 2012, controversy erupted after it was reported that a baby had died in New York City after contracting Herpes Simplex virus during the Orthodox Jewish variant of circumcision known as metzitzah b'peh, which involves the oral suction of blood from the infant's penis following the circumcision procedure.2

Later that year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement which suggested that the health benefits of ordinary forms of male circumcision outweigh the risks and …

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