Lawyer, ethicist, doctors and academics denounce attempt in Tasmania to ban infant circumcision

The authors, led by Michael Bates LLB, find that the report ignores the scientific evidence, contains legal arguments that are seriously flawed and misrepresents the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

“The recommendations are illogical, pose potential dangers and seem unworkable in practice,” said Mr Bates in his article.

Since infant circumcision is safe and has significant well established lifetime benefits, it is supported on ethical grounds. The procedure should be encouraged as a sensible public health measure. Not to do so violates a child’s right to protection from diseases caused by retention of the foreskin, some of which are serious, even fatal.

The procedure has a net cost benefit to the health system in prevention of infections of the urinary tract and viruses transmitted sexually such as HPV and HIV, protection against penile and cervical cancer, as well as reducing other serious medical problems.

Mr Bates suggests that, “A legislative ban in Tasmania would fuel the vigorous campaigning against childhood male circumcision by opponents worldwide.”

He and his medical co-authors consider it is, “The role of physicians (not legislators) to be the final arbiters of which medical procedures are to be offered, and the right of parents to decide what is best for their child should not be infringed. When legislators start dictating medical practice, the medical profession and society will be worse off.”

Recent evidence-based paediatric policy statements strongly support infant circumcision on health grounds and call on governments to facilitate access and for insurers to cover it.

“Elective circumcisions must be made available again in public hospitals and the Medicare rebate must be increased,” said the authors, “The issue and the approach should be just like vaccination!”

Reference: Pediatr. 2013 Sep;13:136

Recommendation by a law body to ban infant male circumcision has serious worldwide implications for pediatric practice and human rights.


Michael Bates, lawyer: Tel: 0419 303 832 Email: [email protected]

Brian J. Morris, Professor Emeritus: School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney. Tel: 02 9351 3688; Mob: 0422 006 100; Email: [email protected]