‘Informed & personal choice’: Danish doctors rise against child circumcision

‘Informed & personal choice’: Danish doctors rise against child circumcision
A doctor's association in Denmark has made calls to ban child circumcision and the country’s government has made it obligatory to report circumcision to authorities, starting next year, in a move to tighten restrictions on the currently unregulated practice.

Circumcision must be “an informed, personal choice,” and therefore should be postponed until adulthood, the Danish Medical Association said in a press release. It believes the current state of affairs deprives boys of the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and their cultural and religious beliefs. 

“To be circumcised should be an informed, personal choice. It is most consistent with the individual’s right to self-determination that parents not be allowed to make this decision but that it is left up to the individual when he has come of age,” The Local quoted Lise Moller, the chairwoman of the doctors’ association’s ethics board, as saying.

The association does not favor a total ban on circumcision, however, but believes it should be performed on children only for medical reasons.

“We have discussed it thoroughly, also in our ethics committee. We came to the conclusion that it is difficult to predict the consequences of a ban – both for the involved boys, who could for example face bullying or unauthorized procedures with complications – and for the cultural and religious groups they belong to,” Moller said.

The majority of circumcision procedures in Denmark are performed outside of the public healthcare system during religious ceremonies and in private clinics. Somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 circumcisions, mainly on Muslim and Jewish boys, are performed yearly in the country, according to estimates from the Danish Health and Medicines Authority.

The State Serum Institute tried to make a database for the procedure last year, but it was deleted due to lack of authorization from the Danish Data Protection Agency. The country’s health ministry announced on Monday that all circumcisions, regardless of where they were performed, should be reported to authorities starting 2017.

Danish doctors seem to take such issues very seriously, as they have published a number of studies on this matter. For example, a controversial 2015 study, which was based on the data of 340,000 Danish boys, linked circumcision with autism. The study argued that autism is related to various painful experiences in early childhood. Critics said that correlation did not mean causation, and further research is needed.

Circumcision has roused heated debates in Denmark in recent years. While female genital mutilation (FGM) is banned in Denmark, male circumcision is legal and almost unregulated. Circumcision backers claim that it’s a beautiful tradition, which helps people to hold on their ethnic, cultural and religious roots, and banning it would violate basic human rights. Circumcision opponents, however, say that keeping their privates intact is also a human right, and while the procedure does not have any confirmed health benefits it could harm children physically and mentally.

Multiple polls and studies indicate that the majority of Danes supports banning the practice on underage boys. The Danish government, however, has resolved the hard problem by ruling in favor of the pro-circumcision minority.