Mass Circumcision Party Seeks Guiness Book Record


What does boxing champ cum Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao think of this bid in his native land to make it into the Guiness Book of World Records?

Hundreds of boys in a Philippine city turned today for a daylong "circumcision party" to provide a safe, free procedure for a rite of passage that most local males undergo as preteens.

Some boys cried in their mothers' arms while others bit their shirts to stifle sobs as doctors carried out the surgery on dozens of makeshift operating tables inside a sports stadium in Marikina city east of Manila. Outside, other boys lined up to await their turn.

"I'm a big boy now," one boy who had just finished the surgery bragged.

Officials said the event — touted in a press statement as a "circumcision party" — aims to promote safe circumcision and to offer to poor residents free surgery that would otherwise cost at least $40 (£25) in private hospitals.

As of mid-afternoon, nearly 1,500 boys aged 9 years and up had been circumcised while many were still waiting in line, city health officer Dr. Alberto Herrera said.

In the Philippines, preadolescent and adolescent boys traditionally are circumcised during summer school break from March to May. In rural areas, the surgery is sometimes performed by non-doctors using crude methods.

The city also hopes to establish a world record for the number of people attending a mass circumcision.

"We applied for the Guinness Book of World Records and we are recording everything so we can send all the data to them and hopefully it will be recognized," Vice Mayor Jose Fabian Cadiz said.

Cheap joke: Getting all the documentation in the envelope must be quite a procedure.

AP via UK Independent via Hot Air.

Estimates of male circumcision rates in the United States range from around 55 percent to 85 percent; most are performed in the hospital or shortly thereafter in a non-religious setting and procedure.

In a widely read 1996 Journal of Medicine and Philosophy article, longtime Reason contributing editor Thomas Szasz identifies routine, non-religiously linked circumcision with the "birth of the therepeutic state," arguing the ubiquity of the practice in the U.S. stems from quackish concerns over masturbation and other once-controversial behaviors.

Certainly it's more than a little interesting that most parents making the decision know virtually nothing about its history as a medical intervention (as opposed to a religious ritual). Between 1993, when my first son was born, and 2001, there appeared to be a shift in the default-setting of the procedure. After clarifying right after the birth that neither I nor my son's mother was an observant Jew, the first doctor (in California) assumed that it would happen in the hospital, noting that only Hollywood stars and Mexicans didn't automatically trim their boys. My second son was born in a small hospital in Ohio and delivered by a doctor who was a marvel of customer service, actually asked well ahead of the birth what we wanted to do and essentially said that all things being equal, you might as well because most boys are circumcised (as in California, there was a charge for the service).

Szasz thinks the health-based arguments for large-scale circumcision are unconvincing but, true to form, concludes that argument over coercion provides the best path forward:

If RNC [routine neonatal circumcision; Szasz's term for infant circumcision] is medically unjustifiable, does it constitute a from of child abuse? Persons unbounded by Jewish or Islamic religious rules might reach that conclusion (Brigman 1984). Should it therefore be illegal? Therein lies our ethical dilemma. We must balance the (relatively small) harm that RNC does to the individual against the (potentially vast) harm that strengthening the state does to everyone (especially the family). Because the family remains our most secure shield against the encroachments of the Therapeutic State, the dilemma calls for  compromise. [10] Preventing RNC does not warrant enlisting the coercive apparatus of the state against the religious values of parents. It does, however, warrant, enlisting the persuasive powers of physicians and the media in the task of informing parents of newborn males about the medically dubious and morally problematic nature of this ostensibly hygienic procedure.

Read more here.

This story caught my eye in part because it exists on the fringes of the ObamaCare debate: Should the same state that insists on universal coverage make providers pay for common procedures even if they are not medically necessary? How many other incredibly personal (if often generally uninformed) procedures might fall under a similar blanket? Abortion got trotted out a lot during the health-care debate but it hardly exhausts the issue. What about fertility treatments (for both men and women)? The list goes on. My biggest concern about the government taking over the regulation if not actual disbursement of the remaining 50 percent of money spent on health care is less about ruinous economics and more about the invasion of the state into every square inch of every citizen's body.

Now go get that second cup of coffee on a Monday!