Florida Circumcision Case: Lawyer Says Most Physicians Lack Education on Male Genitalia
"It's my experience that most physicians are poorly educated when it comes to the anatomy of the normal male genitalia," says Atlanta-based trial attorney and civil mediator, David Llewellyn.
Llewellyn, who specializes in medical malpractice, particularly in the areas of genital injury, circumcision damage, and wrongful circumcision, for Johnson & Ward, admits that circumcision cases, such as the one New Times reported on about a Boynton Beach woman asking the Fourth District Court of Appeals to stop a court order to keep her 3-year-old son from being circumcised, are always highly emotional.
But, Llewellyn says, an ongoing problem lies with poor education among parents, and even physicians.
"People get mad at each other," Llewellyn -- who is not part of the Boynton Beach case -- says. "It's an emotional topic. Whether religion is involved in certain cases, or not, all genital modifications are emotional issues."
This recent case has pitted Heather Hironimus and Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton against each other over Nebus' wishes to have their three-and-a-half year old son circumcised.
The two had previously agreed that Nebus would pay for and schedule the boy's circumcision. But the circumcision never happened. And now that the boy is no longer a newborn, and because, as Hironimus claims, there is no medical reason for it, she fears that the procedure could harm or even kill their son.
"She did not want to have the parties' son undergo requisite general anesthesia for fear of death," says the court order.
While Llewellyn would not comment on this particular case to New Times, he did say that, in his experience, proper education on circumcision and the male genitalia has been problematic in society as well as within the medical community.
"In my opinion is there is never a reason to circumcise," he says. "There are good legal principals regarding this, but those principals are often disregarded because it's such an emotional topic."
Among other things, Llewellyn says that parents and American society as a whole, have never been re-educated on the myths of circumcision.
Among those myths, he says, is that circumcised males are more hygienic.
"And starting in the early nineteenth century," he says, "it wasn't just a question of physical hygiene, but of moral hygiene as well."
Llewellyn says a good reason circumcision became so widespread in America was because of a belief that being circumcised meant less sexual sensation, which would curb masturbation among boys and men.
The 1970 edition of Campbell's Urology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of urology, states that parents would do anything to promote hygiene in their sons and curb masturbation, and that circumcision was the procedure of choice to do so.
"These mys are why we started doing it," Llewellyn says. "What we've ignored is the damage. Bleeding, surgical mistakes, psychological damage. All because of a lack of understanding."
The hygiene myth became so widespread, and eventually so many Americans non-Jews began circumcising their sons, that it became an acceptable thing.
And the problem persists today because modern medical journals still make some questionable claims, he says.
"There's medical literature that even today says that foreskin in most boys is retractable between two and four months," Llewellyn says. "And there is nothing anywhere, medically, to support that claim."
The reason many medical review boards tend to be so pro-circumcision, Llewellyn says, is because the act has just been an accepted part of society for so many years.
"Even beyond religion, many cases exist where the father simply wants their son to look like him."
"The problem persists deeply, he says. "To admit that there's something wrong with circumcision is to admit something is wrong with you," he says. "That's part of the problem."
The Hironimus-Nebus has stoked passions, which doesn't surprise Llewellyn. But he says education and awareness are always key.
"Given my many discussions with medical professionals over the years," Llewellyn says, "the rate of damage caused by circumcision is higher than reported. But there are no long-term studies especially with adult males."
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