Cutting to the Point on Circumcision
To Snip or Not To Snip continued...
If parents choose to circumcise their baby, the AAP recommends local
anesthesia. Doctors can use a topical anesthetic, a dorsal penile-nerve block
(injected with a needle), or a newer procedure called a subcutaneous ring
block, which proved to be more effective than the other two methods in one
Another disadvantage of circumcision is the risk of surgical complications,
although they are rare -- maybe 0.2% to 0.6%. Bleeding is the most common
complication, occurring in 0.1% of circumcisions, although it's rarely bad
enough to warrant a transfusion. Minor infection is the second most common
Less common are complications, such as improper or excessive cutting, which
can impair function. In a few instances, circumcision has resulted in loss of
the penis or even death. A 1-month-old infant in Cleveland, Ohio, died last
year from anesthesia complications as doctors were repairing his
It's also more expensive. About 1.2 million newborn males are circumcised
annually at a cost of $150 million to $270 million. An individual circumcision
can range from $225 to $500.
Opponents of circumcision also claim that the procedure desensitizes the
penis and decreases sexual pleasure. That's because the foreskin, which makes
up about half the skin of the penis, contains highly sensitive nerve
No studies have been done to back those claims, although some men who were
circumcised as adults reportedly say that sensitivity decreased significantly.
On the other hand, one study found that circumcised men remained sexually
Parents Sound Off
For Hugh and Kalei Damon, of Newport Beach, Calif., the decision to
circumcise Cole, now 14 months, came down to conformity. Not only is Hugh Damon
circumcised, but he's banking on the fact that most boys Cole's age will be,
"I remember growing up seeing my dad naked and his looked the same as
mine. I just felt psychologically, if it didn't there might be questions
why," says Damon. "Mostly, I just didn't want him to feel different in
the locker room or from me."
Religious tradition was the determining factor for Doug Gertner and Maggie
Miller, of Denver, Colo. Just as Gertner's own Jewish ritual ceremony connected
him to his ancestors and heritage, so too would his son's. Jordan is now 1.
"It was a powerful, beautiful event, and the community went out of its
way to be there and support him as he went through this rite of passage,"
says Gertner. "Hopefully he'll appreciate that anything I did to him was
chosen thoughtfully, and not just pain inflicted."
However, some Jews are among those questioning the ancient ritual. Michael
Kimmel and Amy Aronson of Brooklyn, N.Y., came up with a creative alternative.
They found a mohel, who performs ritual circumcisions, to perform the ceremony
-- without the circumcision.