Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dr. Amy Tuteur's cloudy view of newborn circumcision

In her blog post The case for neonatal circumcision Dr. Amy Tuteur lashes out at those calling for freedom from non-therapeutic circumcision and displays a culturally biased view while advising the AAP to recommend the surgery for all newborn males.

Joining with Tobian, Gray, and Quinn she discards the careful consideration of physicians around the world who have consisently and recently rejected the arguments they are promoting.

Current consensus of medical opinion, including that of the Canadian and American Paediatric Societies and the American Urological Society, is that there is insufficient evidence that these benefits outweigh the potential risks. That is, routine infant male circumcision, i.e. routine removal of normal tissue in a healthy infant, is not recommended.

“the RACP does not recommend that routine circumcision in infancy be performed.”

These statements were published in August and September of 2009.

In addition to recognizing the clinical data is insufficient to indicate newborn circumcision, and unlike Dr. Tuteur, these medical organizations give significant weight to the ethical issues involved in a surgery which is irreversible, unnecessary, and occurs without consent of the patient.

Dr. Tuteur uses sloppy language to make her case, for example by claiming "the benefits of circumcision are real and clinically important." In fact, they are only potential benefits which will not materialize, and will not be important for the vast majority of circumcised males. The risks of circumcision are also real and clinically important, but she omits them.

Is data from adult Africans any more applicable to American newborns than to Canadain, Australian, or British newborns? Probably not. The low rate of acceptance and support of newborn circumcision by physicians outside the United States, and relatively high rate of support among American physicians like Dr. Tuteur suggests that the existing culture of male circumcision here is clouding her view of the data, and completely obscuring her view of ethical considerations.

The early days of 2010 have seen a concerted effort by some to upset the trend of falling circumcision rates in the United States. The AAP appears likely to issue a revised recommendation on newborn circumcision in the near future. Hopefully they will avoid the cultural bias which affects Dr. Tuteur and some of her colleagues, but leaves physicians outside the United State largely unaffected.


  1. Amy Tuteur is a professor of obstetrics and a nasty piece of work. If she were typical of Jewish intellectuals, our world would be far nastier and poorer one. Fortunately, she is not typical at all.

    Tuteur has issues with the home birth movement, about which I have an open mind. Home birthers attack her, including in ways that do not do their cause credit. She sadly responds in kind. She cannot see that for many women, home birthing promotes cultural and ethical values that are at least as important as medical statistics. I do not take exception to the fact that she disputes home birth, only to the insenstivity of the way she goes about it.

    Tuteur's stance re the alleged benefits of routine neonatal circumcision is cut from a similar cloth. Sarcastic and patronising towards those who disagree with her. A dismissal of ethical and cultural values that differ from her own. Scorn for those who believe that what circumcision discards has sexual benefits. I should disclose that I have been an intactivist for more than a quarter century, and that I take a close interest in psychosexual issues posed by the tip of the penis and how it works.

    Finally, Tuteur is an "Israel uber alles" diaspora Jew, one very quick to tar those who disagree with Israel or support the Palestinans with antisemitism.

    I invite the owner of this blog to Email me.

  2. Thank you for your comment. However since you have posted anonymously and without contact information, it is not possible for me to accept your invitation.

  3. Dr T does medical science a disservice with her emotive and biased circumcision advocacy

  4. do not take exception to the fact that she disputes home birth, only to the insenstivity of the way she goes about it.