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On April 8, 2003, in his widely viewed
TV program, Dr.
Phil McGraw reassured a distraught
young mother who was agonizing about having had her
2 years ago, as a newborn. She had become convinced
by anti-circumcision groups that circumcision “changed
some of the wiring in his brain” and would lead
to permanent emotional and sexual problems. She felt
her son would later blame her for having allowed him
to be circumcised.
In reassuring the mother Dr. Phil pointed
out that millions of boys have been circumcised but
don’t hate their mothers. He cited an anti-circumcision
author who stated that newborns remember traumatic events, and if they are subjected
to pain they will later blame the mother, regardless of her intent. Dr. Phil’s
response to this unsupported claim was: “What a load of crap!” He
noted that one-day-old infants don’t encode pain messages to long-term
memories. If they did remember distressing newborn events they would be much
more damaged emotionally by the traumatic and life-threatening experience
of being born than by having the foreskin removed.
Reinforcing Dr. Phil is current practice which dictates that local anesthesia
be used in performing newborn circumcision. In 2003 a properly done circumcision
should be painless. Unfortunately, Dr. Phil did not rebut the mother’s
erroneous claim, again gotten from anti-circumcision forces, that there are
no medical benefits from newborn circumcision. Among the advantages proven
medical evidence are protection against severe infant urinary infections,
penile cancer, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, local foreskin
inability to retract the foreskin, and cervical cancer in female partners
of uncircumcised men. But Dr. Phil did graphically debunk the phony pseudo-psychological
theories of the anti-circumcision groups. Right on, Dr. Phil!