How is baby circumcision not child abuse

clipping : Wine and suppositories are not enough as an anesthetic

At the ripe old age of 99, Abraham received the order: “Every newborn male must be circumcised on the eighth day. This also applies to the servants who were born in your house or who were bought for money. ”Believing Jews fulfill this divine mandate for their sons to this day, worldwide and almost without exception. For the majority of Muslim scholars, too, circumcision is a religious commandment. According to German law, circumcision - like any medical intervention - is, however, a form of bodily harm with no ifs or buts (even if this is permanently questioned on talk shows). It would be allowed, however, if the injured person consents and the act does not violate common decency. Parents may only give this consent for their children if this does not objectively harm the best interests of the child.

After the ethics council issued a statement on August 23, a speedy change in the law is now being demanded. Why the circumcision of boys should be allowed "for religious or ideological reasons", the committee leaves open in its short communication.

First and foremost, circumcision has disadvantages for the child: unless anesthesia is used, severe pain is inflicted on him. Based on recent research results, it is clear that newborns are significantly traumatized as a result, because the neuronal mechanisms of pain processing develop later. A Canadian study even showed that boys who were circumcised without anesthesia in the first few days of life react more intensely to pain stimuli during routine vaccinations.

Picture gallery: The circumcision debate

This is not countered by the “right to religious freedom” - with good reason every individual's right to freedom ends where another's human rights are curtailed. In the Old Testament, children still “belonged” to their fathers. The fact that we see children today as independent individuals with unrestricted rights is a cultural achievement.

There must therefore be good reasons for the decision to be justified, which are in the best interests of the child. A lot of medical nonsense is used here, above all the WHO recommendation on the circumcision of adults as a measure against AIDS: The reduction of HIV infections has only been shown for heterosexual men in developing countries, where a high proportion of women are infected and other sexually transmitted diseases are rampant . In Germany, where only around 450 women are infected with HIV each year, circumcision has no relevant influence on the risk of infection. Reliance on a protective effect of circumcision could even be dangerous.

It is true that circumcised infants are less likely to get urinary tract infections and that there is a somewhat reduced risk of genital herpes, papillomas and penile cancer later in life. The same result can be achieved through consistent genital hygiene; the American Society for Pediatrics nevertheless considers circumcision to be justified as a hygienic measure - provided it is carried out professionally and under local anesthesia.

Jewish and Muslim parents could therefore cite hygienic reasons for circumcision and refer to the recommendation of US paediatricians. That would be allowed in Germany as part of parental custody, without any change in the law. However, circumcisions must always be performed under effective anesthesia. In the minimal version, the penis is packed in a plastic bag with lidocaine cream 30 minutes beforehand. This minimum requirement must also apply to Jewish circumcision - sweet wine and suppositories for pain relief are unacceptable.

Even if Israel's chief rabbi rejects any narcotics, there is hope of a compromise. In Judaism there are no dogmas (apart from the uniqueness of God) and no Vatican - the German rabbis can decide for themselves. Not only circumcision, as the Jewish scholar Nachmanides read from the Torah, but also the use of scientific knowledge for the benefit of man is a biblical mandate.

The author is a microbiologist and director of the Institute for Biological Safety Research in Halle.

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