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Intactivism News
June - August 2001

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East Cape News (Grahamstown, South Africa)
August 31, 2001

Radical Circumcision Bill
Goes Before the People

By Sam Mkokeli

The Traditional Affairs standing committee will hold public hearings on the Traditional Circumcision bill throughout the Eastern Cape next week, the Legislature's assistant head of committees Oxley Ngqele said today.

The aim was to get oral and written submisions from the public. The bill seeks to establish hygenic standards during the rite and to regulate the operation of circumcision schools.

It also seeks to set a minimum age limit of 18 on initiates who must also undergo a pre-circumscision medical examination by a medical doctor. A medical certificate must also be issued afterwards.

The bill states that traditional surgeons should be known to the parents of the initiate and that they must use instruments approved by the parents.

In a bid to avoid the transmission of sexual diseases and Aids, the bill wants to ensure that an instrument used on one initiate must not be used to circumsice another. Traditional surgeons will also be compelled by law to use instruments supplied by a medical officer assigned to that area by the Health MEC.

[This is believed to be the first piece of legislation setting an age of consent for circumcision - i.e. giving the right to decline to the penis's owner and so treating it as a human rights issue.

It follows a number of deaths from circumcision in South Africa.]

Related pages:

Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) - International Edition
Tuesday 21.8.2001

Botched circumcisions send four boys to hospital in Kuopio

Authorities investigate aftermath of operations by visiting Muslim doctor

Four Muslim boys have been hospitalised in the eastern city of Kuopio for complications resulting from circumcisions. One of the boys had gangrene in his penis, but apparently it was successfully treated in hospital.

An African-born doctor visiting Kuopio last week performed the operation on seven Muslim boys. The youngest was just three months old, and the oldest were about ten. The first of the boys were brought to the hospital on Wednesday night last week. The Kuopio University Hospital and public health clinics do not perform male circumcisions except for medical reasons.

Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, is practised in a number of areas in North Africa. The procedure is illegal in Finland and is prosecuted as an assault. The Provincial Government of Eastern Finland is investigating the events of recent days.

"At this point we are ascertaining what kind of a doctor was at work, if he has a right to practice medicine, and in what kinds of conditions it took place," says Provincial doctor Antti Turunen.

"Fortunately the patients are being treated and nothing worse happened. However, this is already pretty bad."

If the case is found to involve serious negligence, the matter will be dealt with by the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs (TEO). According to director-general Eila Uotila, the professional skill of a doctor can be reviewed if his or her patient suffers more complications than normal.

In a ruling issued in 1999 the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio said that Finnish public health institutions are not obliged to perform male circumcisions for non-medical reasons. Paunio said that a cautious view should be taken on male circumcision, even though the right to practice religion should be respected.

Different hospitals have different policies concerning circumcision for non-medical reasons. The university hospitals in Helsinki and Kuopio do not perform religious circumcisions. At the Oulu University Hospital, about half a dozen such procedures are performed each year. The university hospitals of Tampere and Turku stopped performing religious circumcisions after the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman's decision.

Bungling surgeon struck off

By Nicola Woolcock
(Filed: 25/08/2001)

A SURGEON who left patients in agony after bungled hysterectomy and circumcision operations was struck off the medical register yesterday.

Peter Silverstone, 58, of Elmfield Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, failed to anaesthetise two baby boys properly before operating on them.

Two women also suffered severe blood loss when he left them in the care of nurses after surgery.

He denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the women were private patients and subject to different procedures but he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council.

Silverstone performed circumcisions on boys aged six months and seven months at a surgery in Dipton, Tyne and Wear, in 1998.

Both babies screamed in pain during the operations and one boy bled for hours after the operation until Silverstone visited the family home to give him stitches.

The two hysterectomies ...

Silverstone was found to have abused his professional position over the circumcisions and to have acted inappropriately and incompetently. His treatment of both women was ruled inadequate and irresponsible.

[Parents of children who have died in other malpractice cases have already complained that the GMC strikes off retired surgeons but gives wet-bus-ticket punishments to those who are still practising.]

The Independent

GP guilty of misconduct in circumcision referral

By Mick McGann
22 August 2001

A doctor who encouraged two mothers to have their baby sons circumcised by an insufficiently experienced surgeon was found guilty yesterday of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Michael Harbinson referred the boys - one aged six months - to his colleague Peter Silverstone, the General Medical Council (GMC) was told. Mr Silverstone failed to anaesthetise either boy adequately and both ended up screaming.

Dr Harbinson, who had known Mr Silverstone for several years, paid him out of his GP fund-holding budget.

Dr Harbinson, of Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, denied the charge. The GMC's professional conduct committee ruled that he could continue in practice, but subject to a condition he undergo retraining from his post-graduate dean for 18 months.

The committee will today consider a charge of serious professional misconduct against Mr Silverstone, a retired gynaecologist and obstetrician of Newcastle upon Tyne, who denies the allegation


Dr Harbison is a circumcision advocate who has published both medical and lay articles in support of the operation:

Moderate preputial dysplasia in a young child
BJU International 84 (3), 376-376
A 33 month old boy had "mild to moderate [preputial] dysplasia" and was "referred for circumcision, with his parents' approval"..."[w]hether these changes would have resolved without circumcision is impossible to say". In spite of this, he is "extremely grateful to...Mr Peter Silverstone for performing the surgery".

Harbinson MA. Neonatal circumcision.
Health Professional Digest 1998; 6(3):56-8

Harbinson MA. The arguments for and against circumcision.
Nursing Standard. 1997; 11:42-47.

BBC News
Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK

Circumcision doctors 'abused position'

A retired surgeon who botched circumcision operations on two baby boys has been found guilty of abusing his professional position. The General Medical Council decided that obstetrician Mr Peter Silverstone had acted inappropriately and irresponsibly.

A GMC disciplinary hearing heard that Mr Silverstone, of Newcastle upon Tyne, failed to properly anaesthetise the six and seven month old children during the operations which were carried out in 1998.

Howled in pain

One infant howled in pain throughout the 25 minute procedure, and the other bled for hours afterwards.

Zoe Johnson from the GMC said that Mr Silverstone was not sufficiently expert in the procedure. ... While he had carried out religious circumcisions, he was not experienced in carrying them out for medical reasons.

[This seems to imply that there is a lower standard of care in religious circumcisions.]

The GMC also found against GP Dr Michael Harbison, of Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, who referred the babies' mothers to the surgeon.

The hearing heard that Dr Harbison had pressurised one of the mothers into agreeing to the surgery, presenting the option of circumcision as a fait accompli.

The hearing will now consider whether the doctors are guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Monday, 13 August, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK

Doctors accused over 'botched ops'

A GP pressured two mothers into having their babies circumcised - then referred them to a surgeon who botched both operations, a disciplinary hearing was told on Monday.

Dr Michael Harbinson is accused ...

Mr Silverstone, of Newcastle upon Tyne, is accused by the General Medical Council of failing to anaesthetise either boy properly - they both screamed uncontrollably during their operations.

In addition, the GMC says that one suffered unnecessary bleeding...

Both doctors are accused of serious professional misconduct by providing substandard treatment to patients before, during and after operations.

Dr Harbinson, from Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, and Mr Silverstone both deny the charges.

The first boy, six-and-a-half months old, and referred to only as "A" during the hearing, was taken to see Dr Harbinson because he was suffering from cysts under the foreskin.

Miss Zoe Johnson, representing the GMC, told the hearing in London: "Dr Harbinson was responsible for encouraging the parents to have their boys circumcised.


"He presented the case as a fait accompli. He did not explain the alternative to circumcism - something that was essential, given the circumstances. ...

The second boy, referred to as "B", was circumcised in September 1998.

Miss Johnson told the hearing that the boy's mother felt pressurised into allowing her son to be circumcised.

She said: "It appears it was his mantra repeated over and over again. Mrs B maintained that she didn't want her son circumcised."

Eventually persuaded, the mother waited outside the clinic while the procedure took place.

Miss Johnson said: "On her return she heard B screaming as if he was in pain.

"The bandage had come loose and was soaked with blood."

In both cases, said Miss Johnson, analgesia was inadequate, and in the second case, of child B, the surgeon allowed the boy to go home while he was still bleeding. ...


The Wichita [Kansas] Eagle
Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Agreement reached in circumcision case

A settlement between an 18-day-old baby's parents, whose disagreement over whether to circumcise their son almost ended up in court, was reached today, the boy's father said.

It includes a provision that the baby, Asher Nathaniel Grisham, will not be circumcised, Rodney Grisham said.

"I wouldn't agree to anything less," he said. "Nobody is doing that to my son."

The dispute between Rodney and Sheila Grisham, who are in the process of divorcing, began before the baby was born.

Rodney Grisham, 25, said circumcision amounts to sexual assault. Sheila Grisham, 21, argued not doing it was against her religious beliefs.

Rodney Grisham went so far as to file a protection from abuse order at the Sedgwick County courthouse in the name of his son to stop the procedure.

[The writer apparently thinks it "goes far" to file a protection order against cutting a baby's genitals.]


The Wichita [Kansas] Eagle
Friday, July 13, 2001

Wichitans fight over their son's circumcision

By Alex Branch
The Wichita Eagle

Allowing a doctor to circumcise his newborn son, in Rodney Grisham's mind, is the same as letting someone sexually assault him.

But to his wife, Sheila Grisham, not allowing the procedure is an assault on her religious beliefs.

The dispute over whether to circumcise their 9-day-old baby could take the two Wichita parents to court next week.

It has already contributed to their separation. And Rodney Grisham has gone so far as to file a protection-from-abuse order in his son's name in Sedgwick County District Court to prevent the procedure. A hearing is set for Thursday.

"I believe every child has a right to have their genitals left alone," said Rodney Grisham, 25.

His son, Asher Nathanal Grisham, is staying with his 22-year-old wife, who says her reasons for the circumcision are strictly religious.

"I've talked it over with my pastor and decided that's what I want to do," she said.

Her pastor, Marrell Cornwell of First Pentecostal Church in Wichita, is baffled by the dispute, calling it the first he's heard of between parents in his congregation.

He has had several conversations about circumcision with Rodney Grisham, he said, but could not sway him.

Although Cornwell doesn't think circumcision is necessary for salvation, he said, it is still important.

"It's a part of our Judaic-Christian heritage," Cornwell said. "And it's a very strong part."

In circumcision, an anesthetic usually is applied to the penis, and the foreskin is cut away.

A statement released two years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which had been neutral on the subject for years, declared that circumcision carries few medical benefits and is generally unnecessary.

However, the academy suggested families continue to follow their personal preferences, including religious traditions.

Rodney Grisham doesn't see how personal preference can outweigh the pain that such a procedure must cause an infant.

And he can't stand the idea of standing by and watching someone inflict that kind of pain on his son.

If, when his son is 12, 13 or 14 years old, he decides for himself that he wants to be circumcised, then that's fine, Rodney Grisham said.

He was circumcised as a child. But that's no reason for his son to go through the same thing, he said.

"I think it could really traumatize a baby," he said. "And I can't go through with that."


Pappa dömd för omskärelse av sin son

Father gaoled for circumcision of son
Expressen, Sweden, June 14, 2001

Den frånskilda pappan tog sin sexårige pojke till en läkare i Borås och lät omskära pojken, utan mammans vetskap. I dag dömdes pappan till tre månaders fängelse för misshandel, anstiftan till misshandel, olaga hot och ofredande.

A divorced father took his six-year old son to a doctor in Borås and had the boy circumcised without the mother's knowledge. Today the father was sentenced to three months in prison for assault, inciting assault, uttering illegal threats and child abuse.

Läkaren, som utförde ingreppet utan att höra mamman, har tidigare friats av Socialstyrelsen, uppger Sveriges Radio Sjuhärad.

The doctor who performed the operation without talking to the mother was earlier acquitted by Socialstyrelsen (National Board of Health and Welfare), says a Swedish radio station.

Yet if they had agreed, it would have been legal...


$1.4 Million Award for Botched Circumcision

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Saturday, June 9, 2001, AP

Sacramento-- A Sacramento jury awarded $1.42 million to a 7 year-old boy this week for a botched circumcision performed by a first-year resident at University of California, Davis, Medical Center

The verdict exceeds the legal cap of $250,000 on medical malpractice awards because the hospital failed to obtain the parents' permission to operate. After the boy was injured, the hospital asked the parents to sign a consent form, according to a press release by the parents' attorney, Mark Blake.

The boy suffered from a pituitary condition that made circumcision difficult and dangerous, Brake said.

See a legal summary of the same case.


Sweden Regulates Circumcision

June 1, 2001

The Swedish Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a law to regulate infant circumcision.

The law allows circumcision of minors to be performed only by a doctor, or in the first two months by a licenced person, and requires anaesthetic to be used.

It was passed by 249 votes to 10, with 20 abstentions and 70 members absent.

The law is greatly watered-down from when it was first introduced. The initial Bill said that no one could be circumcised before the age of 18 and then only with full disclosure. Following negotiations with the Jewish community, the Bill made Jews exempt for the first two months, during which time a mohel can obtain a license from the government to circumcise a baby.

A Green Party MP, Kia Andreasson, said that if Parliament wasn't going to treat the Bill as a human rights issue protecting all children, it was a farce. She introduced an amendment to exclude the exemption, but it was voted down.

The Bill includes a mandate for the Social (Health and Welfare) Committee of the Swedish Parliament to evaluate circumcision as a human rights issue over the next four years, at which time the issue will be revisited.

- personal

More items from Sweden, many in Swedish and English.


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