Danish doctors take a stand against infant circumcision
While stopping short of calling for a total ban on circumcision, the Danish Medical Association (Lægeforeningen) said in a weekend statement that no boys under the age of 18 be circumcised in Denmark.
The association said that circumcision should be “an informed, personal choice” that young men should make for themselves.
The association said that when parents have their male children circumcised, it robs the boys of the ability to make decisions about their own bodies and their own cultural and religious beliefs.
Lise Møller, the chairwoman of the association’s ethics board, said:
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.
Lægeforeningen said that male circumcision carries a risk of complications and should only be performed on children when there is a documented medical need.
Regarding an outright ban, Møller said:
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 unauthorised procedures with complications – and for the cultural and religious groups they belong to.
The Danish Health and Medicines Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) estimates that somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 circumcisions are performed in Denmark each year, primarily on Jewish and Muslim boys.
The majority of those procedures occur outside of the public health system and are done in religious ceremonies in the child’s home or at private clinics.
There are thought to be an unknown number of circumcisions carried out each year that are not reported. Last year it was revealed that the State Serum Institute (SSI) had kept a database of circumcisions for 19 months despite never receiving legal authority to do so from the Danish Data Protection Agency (Datatilsynet).
That illegally-kept database was deleted in August 2015 but the Health Ministry announced on Monday that beginning in 2017 all circumcisions, regardless of where they take place, will need to be reported to Denmark’s national patient registry (Landspatientregistret).
According to a major 2007 study by the World Health Organization, roughly 30 percent of the global male population is circumcised. Of those, roughly two thirds are practising Muslims, while 0.8 percent are Jews.
Male circumcision regularly pops up as the subject of debate in Denmark and polls have shown that upwards of 87 percent of Danes have expressed support for banning the practise on boys under the age of 18.
Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is illegal in Denmark.