Updated: Sunday, 12th July 2020 @ 9:02am

'Every adult’s responsibility': Campaign calls for circumcision regulation following tragic Oldham baby death

'Every adult’s responsibility': Campaign calls for circumcision regulation following tragic Oldham baby death

By Lucy Kenderdine

Following the death of a baby in Oldham after a botched circumcision, an e-petition has sparked a controversial debate into the risks associated with the procedure.

Currently with 45 signatures, the petition is calls on the government to introduce the legal regulation of the circumcision of male babies and children.

The petition is not unique, with several other groups and campaigns developing against the practice in recent years.

One such drive was started by Glen Poole who runs Helping Men, a consultancy aiming to help tackle some of the inequalities men experience in health, education and the criminal justice system.

He said: “When I heard about the death of Goodluck Caubergs I was horrified and decided to do something about it.

“I set up the campaign End Unnecessary Male Circumcision and began researching the issue.”

Baby Goodluck was just four weeks old when he died from blood loss the day after a botched home circumcision in Chadderton in April 2010.

“One of the legal inequalities boys face is while it is illegal to perform unnecessary genital surgery on girls in the UK – or to take a girl based in the UK abroad to have such surgery performed on them – it is perfectly legal to do this to boys,” he said.

There is currently no national registry recording all circumcisions performed in the UK and so it is impossible to say exactly how many men and boys are circumcised each year, but some estimates put this figure at around 30,000.

Mr Poole added: “Obviously people will have lots of different views on the subject and are uncomfortable having the conversation.

“But I think it is every adult’s responsibility to ask ourselves what level of circumcision is unnecessary and what action we should take to stop it happening.

“We can all agree that it is unnecessary to carry out ritual and religious circumcisions in a way that causes death, as in the case of the baby boy who bled to death in Oldham.”

He argues it is also unnecessary to perform non-consensual surgery for social reasons, as is the case in countries such as the USA, and that boys in all circumstances and from all backgrounds should be left to make the decision when they reach adulthood.

Mr Poole said: “Ultimately, I set up the campaign to make more people are aware of the issue of unnecessary male circumcision and to start conversations that can make a difference for men and boys and maybe save other baby boys like Goodluck dying unnecessarily in future.”

The petition, which eventually gained more than 1,000 signatures, has been sent to the government with many expressing their concerns about the issue over the course of the campaign.

Philippa Broadhurst, from Slough said: “I do not believe that anyone has the right to forcibly remove a body part of someone else unnecessarily when that person cannot say no or yes, regardless of age or gender.”

Maria Williams, a mother from Beddau, said: “I have a son and would never consider circumcision unless for medical reasons.

“Your religion is yours alone and not that of a child who is too young to understand, so the mutilation of children should be stopped.”

While circumcision has been used for thousands of years for religious reasons, in the 19th Century its practice became more hygienic.   

However, most healthcare professionals now agree that the risks associated with routine circumcision, such as infection and excessive bleeding, outweigh any potential benefits.

A report in 2006 by the British Medical Association detailed this problem, stating: “The medical benefits previously claimed, however, have not been convincingly proven, and it is now widely accepted, including by the BMA, that this surgical procedure has medical and psychological risks.”

As a result, the NHS does not offer routine circumcision except as a ‘treatment of last resort’ when all other options have failed.

Despite this, Manchester Primary Care Trust have produced a leaflet for parents giving advice for those parents wishing to get their son circumcised for religious or cultural reasons.

A spokesperson said: “We felt that it was important to give some guidance to parents about how to choose a service.”

They added that the trust have set up a voluntary quality assurance process for providers of circumcision for religious or cultural reason.

“We hope that this helps both parents and providers in choosing and providing circumcision services,” the spokesperson said.

“As far as we are aware, Greater Manchester is the only area in the country to provide this type of advice and guidance.”

Picture courtesy of David Dickson, with thanks.

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