Cutting to the Point on Circumcision
Weigh the Options
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
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 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-$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 endings.
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 active longer.
Parents Sound Off
For Hugh and Kalei Damon, of Newport Beach, Calif., the
decision to circumcise Cole 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
"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 of his son Jordan. "Hopefully he'll appreciate
that anything I did to him was chosen thoughtfully, and not just pain
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.