Circumcision Battle

June 16, 2006

The divorced parents of an 8-year-old suburban Chicago boy are fighting in court over whether or not their son should have a circumcision.


Mom says:  She wants him circumcised to prevent recurring, painful inflammation she says he’s experienced during the past year.

Dad says:  The boy is healthy and circumcision, which removes the foreskin of the penis, is an unnecessary medical procedure that could cause him long-term physical and psychological harm. “If you have an infection in your finger, you don’t cut it off,” the father testified. “First you try to treat it.”

But the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Arnold Goldstein of Highland Park, said circumcision is the “best and easiest way” to prevent problems in the future.

The boy’s mother insists, on the advice of Goldstein and two other doctors, that the operation is necessary to prevent recurring bouts of inflammation, called balonitis. His father, a building manager from Arlington Heights, is suing to block the operation, calling it an “unnecessary amputation” that could cause his son irreparable physical and emotional harm.

Gibbons and Dr. Robert Van Howe, a pediatrician from Marquette, Mich., said balonitis, often caused by chemical irritants, is nearly always treatable with a steroid ointment.

Goldstein (the boy’s pediatrician) admitted the boy never received a steroid, but rather an antibiotic ointment such as neosporin, which didn’t help.  The two experts said Neosporin is not recommended for balonitis and sometimes even causes inflammation.

When I was pregnant with my son, I did a lot of research about circumcision. I asked my ob/gyn, as well as fellow mothers who had sons. I found that a growing number of parents are opting against the surgery. The percentage of male babies circumcised has fallen from an estimated 90 percent in 1970 to about 60 percent today. Sure, there are “potential” benefits for circumcision, but I find that good hygiene is also an important factor. I opted not to have my son circumcized. If he decides to do it for either medical or cosmetic reasons when he is older, it will be his choice. My son is 7, and I’m happy to say that we have not had a problem.

What do you fellow Mothertalkers have to say about this? Will it be psychologically tramatizing for an EIGHT YEAR OLD BOY to have a circumcision?