German court: circumcising a child is bodily harm

OG_slinger wrote:
Grubber788 wrote:

Does anyone else have any more articles that discuss the medical implications of circumcision?

Fire in the hole.

Two infants died and two have brain damage since 2000 because tradition demands that herpes-infected rabbis have to suck the wounds they inflict on babies. And, yes, it's exactly as creepy and gross as you imagine. But, hey, god commands that you do sh*t that would get you locked up as a psycho pedophile.

Ok, so we shouldn't let non-doctors perform surgery. I'm wondering more about the majority of surgeries performed in hospitals at birth.

Grubber788 wrote:

Ok, so we shouldn't let non-doctors perform surgery. I'm wondering more about the majority of surgeries performed in hospitals at birth.

Which would bring us back to the more important question: Is performing a circumcision on an infant medically necessary?

As a matter of interest: Reduced HIV transmission rates only matter if the infant is having unprotected intercourse with HIV-Positive people. Teach your babies to use condoms and to discuss any risks with their chosen sexual partners! The more you know...

Rezzy:

Kind of tangential, and still not on point with the stuff I really want to talk about, but the medical necessity of any procedure is a matter of personal consideration. We perform other surgeries on newborns that aren't medically necessary; not just circumcision.

Technically speaking, you could even refuse life-saving surgeries, too, so it goes all the way.

LarryC wrote:

Kind of tangential, and still not on point with the stuff I really want to talk about...

LarryC, you believe that the German court decided to restrict circumcising children and infants only to eradicate minority cultures from their society. That the legal decision to uphold the laws of Germany was made out of a desire to deliberately hurt a subset of their citizens.

What's left to discuss along that path in a thread about banning circumcision? Start a Culture War thread where this can be a bullet-point and I'll probably visit.

LarryC wrote:

but the medical necessity of any procedure is a matter of personal consideration.

That is exactly the point. In Germany a child is an independent unit as far as those decisions go. By law empowered to the right of self-determination. The act of circumcision at the behest of their guardians infringes on their right.

We perform other surgeries on newborns that aren't medically necessary; not just circumcision.

I'd be curious to see if any of those unnecessary surgeries aren't to address birth defects... do you have any specific ones in mind?

Rezzy wrote:

The more you know...

Hah!

I am in complete concurrence, though. The greatest 'benefits' offered by circumcision are entirely up to lifestyle choices. If you are whoring around enough without a condom or even with one, you are going to encounter STDs.

Rezzy:

The one I'm most familiar with is cleft lip and palate surgery. Strictly speaking, unnecessary for survival, and it incurs greater risk than circumcision.

By the by, the stuff I wanted to talk about was the context of that law and the extent of parental authority implicit in Germany.

ZaneRockfist wrote:
Rezzy wrote:

The more you know...

Hah!

I am in complete concurrence, though. The greatest 'benefits' offered by circumcision are entirely up to lifestyle choices. If you are whoring around enough without a condom or even with one, you are going to encounter STDs.

That's one hell of a statement, man.

Grubber788 wrote:

That's one hell of a statement, man.

Heh!

Just saying that if you are having lots of sex with various partners, you are likely to encounter STDs. And whether or not you have a foreskin isn't going to protect you from your own lifestyle choices. It is like the argument for circumcision that is based upon cleanliness. Will a foreskin get dirty? Yeah, but that's why you clean yourself. Will you get an STD? Aside from bad luck in some cases, you are only going to get them if you do not practice safe sex. So then, what benefit is there to circumcision?

Exactly. Living in 21st century and all, I prefer that option too. Rather than cutting bits off of myself, I can just take a shower instead, thank you very much.

LarryC wrote:

By the by, the stuff I wanted to talk about was the context of that law and the extent of parental authority implicit in Germany.

To what end?
Being the guardian of a child in Germany does not give you license to surgically alter the body of the child without a valid medical reason. A rational position.
A more interesting question for this context would be if religious ceremonies should transcend the rule of law in a sovereign, secular country.

Edit: By the way, it is my understanding that this ruling has yet to be upheld in the higher courts where it will undoubtedly be challenged. Soon we'll see how Germany feels about the rule of law in the face of controversy.
Edit: I was going to leave it since I missed it in the first edit, but it started bugging me.

Rezzy wrote:

I'd be curious to see if any of those unnecessary surgeries aren't to address birth defects... do you have any specific ones in mind?

LarryC wrote:

Rezzy:

The one I'm most familiar with is cleft lip and palate surgery. Strictly speaking, unnecessary for survival, and it incurs greater risk than circumcision.

That's a no, then. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleft_lip_and_palate#Complications Those are birth defects with real medical consequences. The foreskin is standard-issue, and there isn't any solid evidence of health risk if you can be bothered to take a shower more than once a week.

Eh. Those are birth defects that may have non-life threatening complications. For the mild cases, the effect can be purely cosmetic (which isn't to say that they don't have value); but the risk of death from the procedure is very real.

Very minor clefts can be like birth defects like skin tags and other such cosmetic things that parents also subject their children to, with varying reasons.

Cleaning of the penis to ensure equivalent value to circumcision has not been tested, to my knowledge, and I don't know of any study canvassing how effective penile cleaning is in general in the male population. It's unfounded to say that the effect of showering once a week would have the same effect; more rhetoric and noise than either logic or science.

LarryC wrote:

Cleaning of the penis to ensure equivalent value to circumcision has not been tested, to my knowledge, and I don't know of any study canvassing how effective penile cleaning is in general in the male population.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that: With proper care, there is no difference in hygiene.

Their position was developed by a Taskforce examining over 40 years worth of data and studies, including the effects of HIV and HPV infections on males and their partners.
Here is the current statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Circumcision.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. The existing scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend routine circumcision. Therefore, because the procedure is not essential to a child’s current well-being, we recommend that the decision to circumcise is one best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician, taking into account what is in the best interests of the child, including medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions.

I included the rest of the statement to help underscore that, in America, Guardians can elect to demand surgery on a child for religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Here are the bulletpoint findings of the initial 1999 Taskforce: (with snarky 4:00AM commentary)
Problems with the penis, such as irritation, can occur with or without circumcision. (no kidding)
With proper care, there is no difference in hygiene. (this is actually false. An uncircumcised penis results in more clean penis surface area after proper care... a cleaner penis, logically)
There may or may not be differences in sexual sensation in adult men. (Can't miss what you've never had so it's kind of hard to tell.)
There is an increased risk for a UTI in uncircumcised males, especially babies under 1 year. However, the risk for a UTI is still less than 1 percent. (So that is the actual benefit for infants. A reduction of the statistical possibility of developing a UTI in the first year. Makes me wonder if it's due to the extra care being given the wound. Also, statistically, more than 100 foreskins have to be removed for a single infant to maybe not develop a urinary tract infection in the first year.)
Newborn circumcision provides some protection from penile cancer, which only occurs in the foreskin. However, the risk of this cancer is very low in developed countries such as the United States. (Nah, cancer sucks. No snark here)

EDIT: I am very conscious of not using 'an' in front of UTI or urinary.... EDIT2: but I looked it up and there's an exception for certain U noises. This is why I shouldn't post before coffee.

Rezzy:

I was under the impression that that was pretty much what I was saying.

An AAP recommendation for routine circumcision is a very strong statement. It means that males should be circumcised for measurable medical benefits pretty much all the time. A lack of this recommendation doesn't imply that it's bad. I hope that that was clear from the statement of the Taskforce!

If it were, there would be a recommendation against it.

LarryC wrote:

I was under the impression that that was pretty much what I was saying.

You said that you weren't aware of any studies comparing the hygienic differences, so I provided one.
The other stuff I just found interesting and felt compelled to add to what could have been a much briefer statement.

LarryC wrote:

A lack of this recommendation doesn't imply that it's bad.

No, a lack of recommendation means it's unnecessary.
So now we're back to the question of: Should the guardian of a child be allowed to demand unnecessary surgical procedures to be performed on that child?

Actually more accurately: Should doctors be liable for the harm caused by unnecessary surgeries demanded by the guardians of that child?

Rezzy:

You said that you weren't aware of any studies comparing the hygienic differences, so I provided one.
The other stuff I just found interesting and felt compelled to add to what could have been a much briefer statement.

True. I appreciate the reference. I'm not truly conversant with the recommendations as I don't generally have a role in advising patients about the pros and cons of surgical procedures; that would probably offend the surgeons.

No, a lack of recommendation means it's unnecessary.
So now we're back to the question of: Should the guardian of a child be allowed to demand unnecessary surgical procedures to be performed on that child?

Let's get that free and clear first: As of 2005, the AAP has had a neutral stance on it; it is neither recommended as a routine procedure nor marked as a deleterious one.

I'll also voice that question the other way around: should the majority stance of a population on guardianship and parenthood vis a vis cultural practices override individual family mandates and preferences regarding small scale surgical procedures? Note that this goes both ways. If the AAP should release a stronger recommendation for circumcision this year or next, are we going to forced parents to have their children circumcised? The AAP is conscientious enough to leave this to individual parent prerogative. You're suggesting that we shouldn't.

Actually more accurately: Should doctors be liable for the harm caused by unnecessary surgeries demanded by the guardians of that child?

There's actually clear bioethical recommendations on this score. The nature of medicolegal practice in your country has necessitated that doctors the world over be conversant on the limits of their prerogatives. As far as I can tell, doctors are regarded as agents of the patient and presumed to be acting in his or her interests. In this case, they are acting in the interest of the parents or guardians of the child. There are still hard limits on what we are allowed to do (no assisting euthanasia in many localities, for instance), but the range of allowed action given consent is fairly large.

This is a dangerous bioethical boundary and we are always aware of the forces on either side. On the one hand, we have to be sensitive to the moral outlook of the population at large, but on the other hand, we have to respect individual rights to medical services. You wouldn't want us to refuse people such services based on the moral outlook of a few, I'm sure.

LarryC wrote:

Eh. Those are birth defects that may have non-life threatening complications. For the mild cases, the effect can be purely cosmetic (which isn't to say that they don't have value); but the risk of death from the procedure is very real.

Very minor clefts can be like birth defects like skin tags and other such cosmetic things that parents also subject their children to, with varying reasons.

Cleaning of the penis to ensure equivalent value to circumcision has not been tested, to my knowledge, and I don't know of any study canvassing how effective penile cleaning is in general in the male population. It's unfounded to say that the effect of showering once a week would have the same effect; more rhetoric and noise than either logic or science.

Well, is a foreskin a birth defect? It brings up the question of to what extent is a birth defect just a matter of cultural perception. There's also the issue that if all circumcision is banned until adulthood, the uncircumcised will not stand out--they'll just look like everyone else. And really, not too many people should be looking at that region before the person being looked at is an adult anyway.

LarryC wrote:

Let's get that free and clear first: As of 2005, the AAP has had a neutral stance on it; it is neither recommended as a routine procedure nor marked as a deleterious one.

So it is something akin to cosmetic surgery. A cosmetic surgery to shorten and scar the skin of the penis.

LarryC wrote:

I'll also voice that question the other way around: should the majority stance of a population on guardianship and parenthood vis a vis cultural practices override individual family mandates and preferences regarding small scale surgical procedures?

German Law is very clear on that vis a vis an individual's protected rights of physical integrity and self-determination. That the practice of circumcision has persisted hinges primarily on the hypothetical scenario you raised as the balance of this scenario:

LarryC wrote:

If the AAP should release a stronger recommendation for circumcision this year or next, are we going to forced parents to have their children circumcised?

If the AAP should release a recommendation for circumcision then presumably some medical benefit to performing that surgery would have been discovered. Some measurable, universal benefit that exceeded the inherent risks of cutting into an infant's body. Since no such benefit is evident despite decades of data, rigorous study, and thousands of determined experts looking to legitimize the practice scientifically, my guess is that the AAP's 'neutral' stance was arrived at precisely because of the current medicolegal practices in my country. Imagine... millions of distraught parents realizing that they, their children, and most likely grandchildren had been subjected to an unnecessary surgery so prevalent that it is considered the normal state of male genitalia for no good reason. Coming out with a strong statement against circumcision would be like placing the knife at their own throats. So instead kick the can over to parental, cultural, traditional prerogative and wash your hands of the whole business until tempers have cooled a bit. The practice has dropped by 30% in recent years. Give it a couple more generations and then perhaps it truly will become, as it is in Germany, a cultural identifier and can be addressed rationally.

LarryC wrote:

This is a dangerous bioethical boundary and we are always aware of the forces on either side. On the one hand, we have to be sensitive to the moral outlook of the population at large, but on the other hand, we have to respect individual rights to medical services. You wouldn't want us to refuse people such services based on the moral outlook of a few, I'm sure.

'Sensitive' to the point of ignoring scientific findings invalidating the necessity or medical benefits of a surgical procedure?

Which of these are morally actionable items...
Dear Doctor, my son's penis looks weird to me. Fix it. - Concerned Parent.
Dear Doctor, my god demands that her son's penis look different. Do it. - Concerned Religious Leader.
Dear Doctor, I was told that my son's penis will do him harm unless it is altered. Cure him. - Worried Parent.

In light of...
Dear Doctor, our laws require that children be protected from undue harm including physical alteration motivated by religious, cultural, or traditional considerations until such time that the child can elect these changes of their own free will. Do not perform this surgery unless there is a medical need. - German Government
Dear Doctors, we looked... the risks, though slight, aren't really worth the benefits plus there are consequences we can't measure objectively. Discuss it with the Parents before you proceed. - Paraphrased Scientific findings in the style of the AAP position on Circumcision.

Rezzy:

So it is something akin to cosmetic surgery. A cosmetic surgery to shorten and scar the skin of the penis.

No. Cosmetic surgery's main benefits are primarily, well, cosmetic. Not counting that benefit, it's really not advisable to do that. I was under the distinct impression that there were no discussed cosmetic benefits surrounding circumcision in the AAP paper.

German Law is very clear on that vis a vis an individual's protected rights of physical integrity and self-determination. That the practice of circumcision has persisted hinges primarily on the hypothetical scenario you raised as the balance of this scenario.

I'd prefer the opinion of a German on this, or at least a translation of the law. If it were so clear, the procedures would have been clear as well. Instead, they sued the MD, then when they couldn't do that, they sued the parents. It sounds like a witch hunt to me, just from that incident.

Imagine... millions of distraught parents realizing that they, their children, and most likely grandchildren had been subjected to an unnecessary surgery so prevalent that it is considered the normal state of male genitalia for no good reason. Coming out with a strong statement against circumcision would be like placing the knife at their own throats. So instead kick the can over to parental, cultural, traditional prerogative and wash your hands of the whole business until tempers have cooled a bit.

That would be terribly bioethically remiss. Bluntly speaking, it's a horrible thing to accuse MDs of, and particularly a Taskforce. No legal liability will accrue to any MD who practices according to current guidelines, even if those guidelines should change in the future. The law is clear on that. Most cases would probably be summarily dismissed, if any such case were to hinge on new recommendations.

'Sensitive' to the point of ignoring scientific findings invalidating the necessity or medical benefits of a surgical procedure?

You're mixing your terms. You're asking for a morally actionable item, but then you're putting a moral directive (religious beliefs) against a legal directive (presumptive German government laws). Additionally, you're suggesting that the morality of the legal stance is absolute; or you're double-dipping the moral imperative by citing the legality and the morality behind the law.

The way you've spun this question only leads me more strongly to believe that this is cultural warfare; which you already know I don't condone.

PS: You haven't answered my question. If the AAP should recommend circumcision, would you push for its general adoption, even against religious concerns?

LarryC wrote:

No. Cosmetic surgery's main benefits are primarily, well, cosmetic.

Right. So what other benefit does circumcision imbue upon an infant other than making their sexual organ look like everyone else's? if it does no good and no harm, medically, then it is a cosmetic alteration.

LarryC wrote:

I'd prefer the opinion of a German on this, or at least a translation of the law. If it were so clear, the procedures would have been clear as well. Instead, they sued the MD, then when they couldn't do that, they sued the parents. It sounds like a witch hunt to me, just from that incident.

Hi. My name is Rezzy. I'm a German-American currently living in the States. My opinion is that the German Constitution is quite clear on the protections afforded to its citizens, however the Germans are a very accommodating people. Their tolerance for religious exceptions to their laws are some of the broadest in Europe. Knowing that it is my opinion that this ruling will be overturned once it is tested by a higher court. While constitutionally protected by rational laws, our societies still tolerate the irrational behavior of our citizens at the cost of our most vulnerable members. Maybe, someday, this will change. The court in Cologne too a first step and will be swatted down hard. Children will suffer a while longer because of it.

And on that matter:
I'm not sure what case you are looking at. From everything I heard the sequence of events went like this:
Parents requested circumcision of their 4 year old son.
A private doctor performed the circumcision, placing 4 stitches on the wound.
Complications arose, a few days later the wound began bleeding, and the parents took the child to a hospital.
The hospital staff, treating a child that had a part of his body cut off contacted the authorities.
The authorities investigated the case and decided to bring charges against the doctor that had performed the surgery on the child.
The court, after hearing the facts of the case and various determinations by medical and cultural experts found that cutting the skin from an infant's penis was an unwarranted medical procedure, was instead an elective cosmetic (their words) procedure imposed on the child by the parents, and thus fell afoul of the protections afforded the child by the German Constitution.
The court, however, exonerated the Doctor of any wrong-doing in this case, as there had been no previous rulings that would have indicated that cutting the skin off of an infant was in violation of an infant's rights.

If you've found other reports of this ruling that show a different chain of events I'd be interested to read them.

LarryC wrote:

Bluntly speaking, it's a horrible thing to accuse MDs of, and particularly a Taskforce.

I agree. Obviously it's unthinkable that doctors would ever make a self-serving ruling in the face of thousands-year old traditions when the alternative could bring unprecedented legal ramifications, civil and criminal, and most of the victims of mistreatment aren't in a position to even remember the incidents or appreciate the consequences of their injury. Pillars of integrity, doctors. Never continue prescribing harmful treatments, useless procedures, or propagating damaging misinformation for any reason. Known for that.
So I'm probably just looking at facts and jumping to conclusions. Pure speculation at its worst.

LarryC wrote:

You're mixing your terms. You're asking for a morally actionable item, but then you're putting a moral directive (religious beliefs) against a legal directive (presumptive German government laws). Additionally, you're suggesting that the morality of the legal stance is absolute; or you're double-dipping the moral imperative by citing the legality and the morality behind the law.

The way you've spun this question only leads me more strongly to believe that this is cultural warfare; which you already know I don't condone.

PS: You haven't answered my question. If the AAP should recommend circumcision, would you push for its general adoption, even against religious concerns?

I don't believe I'm mixing my terms at all. It IS quite possible that I'm not being as clear as I should... I'm trying to establish which sources of information a doctor is taking into consideration when agreeing to perform an elective cosmetic surgery on a person incapable of providing informed consent.

Re: Cultural Warfare. Meh. One culture declares that any of its citizens may ultimately decide for themselves which faith to participate in, and that the physical integrity and well-being of their person is a fundamental right to relinquish only at their own discretion. Another culture declares that any of its members must remove the foreskin from their male offspring on the 8th day of their life to remain members in good standing. Obviously these two cultures are at odds with each other from day one, so this legal challenge was an inevitable event. Will one culture realize that cutting the skin off a boy doesn't guarantee that he will ultimately become a productive member of that group? Or will the other culture recognize that to be truly tolerant of religious rights, sometimes a boy's penis must be operated upon without his consent?
Either way the result will be interesting, especially since German legislators are currently drafting laws to specifically address female circumcision. Apparently THAT is a culture no one is too upset about going to war with.

Re: Answering your question. But I did! If the AAP should strongly recommend circumcision then there would be a medical reason for it. A clear benefit. Having a foreskin would be a liability to an infant, with dire risks. It would be a defect that required intervention to correct. But that isn't the case. The reasoning in place now could just as easily be applied to removing most of the lips to prevent cold-sores and chapping.
So unless the AAP loses its mind and bases their recommendation on Tarot cards instead of Science I would take their recommendation into consideration and make a rational decision. If having a foreskin endangers the life and well-being of an infant then I would push for the general adoption of circumcision, even against religious concerns. Just how I support blood transfusions, transplants, and other medical life-saving procedures for children and infants, even against religious concerns.

I'd like to add more to this, but Rezzy hit all the points that I'd never in a million years be able to address as well as he did, well said that man.

Rezzy:

Right. So what other benefit does circumcision imbue upon an infant other than making their sexual organ look like everyone else's? if it does no good and no harm, medically, then it is a cosmetic alteration.

According to the reference you provided, circumcision provides modest benefits in terms of reducing UTI, penile cancer, and HIV protection. That is a good. There are the usual complications associated with it, cited as being between 0.2% and 0.6%, documented as being usually minor (minor infection and/or bleeding). Modest benefits, modest risks. It is not a cosmetic alteration.

Hi. My name is Rezzy. I'm a German-American currently living in the States. My opinion is that the German Constitution is quite clear on the protections afforded to its citizens, however the Germans are a very accommodating people. Their tolerance for religious exceptions to their laws are some of the broadest in Europe. Knowing that it is my opinion that this ruling will be overturned once it is tested by a higher court. While constitutionally protected by rational laws, our societies still tolerate the irrational behavior of our citizens at the cost of our most vulnerable members. Maybe, someday, this will change. The court in Cologne too a first step and will be swatted down hard. Children will suffer a while longer because of it.

I think it's fortunate that it will be defeated in the near future, as per your opinion. Respect for parental authority and religious freedom are, IMO, more important than the cost we see here - less than a 1% risk of very minor complications; and dire complications less than 0.01% when performed by the nonmedical personnel.

If you've found other reports of this ruling that show a different chain of events I'd be interested to read them.

You forgot the part where the court decided to re-interpret the laws in a context that was previously, clearly opposite, and Jewish and Muslim leaders criticized it roundly for being religious persecution.

I agree. Obviously it's unthinkable that doctors would ever make a self-serving ruling in the face of thousands-year old traditions when the alternative could bring unprecedented legal ramifications, civil and criminal, and most of the victims of mistreatment aren't in a position to even remember the incidents or appreciate the consequences of their injury. Pillars of integrity, doctors. Never continue prescribing harmful treatments, useless procedures, or propagating damaging misinformation for any reason. Known for that.
So I'm probably just looking at facts and jumping to conclusions. Pure speculation at its worst.

This sarcastic jabbing is unbecoming of you, Rezzy, and unnecessary. You're accusing the medical establishment in general (through the Taskforce) as being self-serving and insensitive to the needs of patients. You've not presented any facts in the instance of your reference to substantiate this. Moreover, casting doubt in the authenticity and integrity of the taskforce you yourself provided as an authority and a source strikes me as being inconsistent. If you don't believe this document, provide something more authoritative.

Cultural Warfare. Meh. One culture declares that any of its citizens may ultimately decide for themselves which faith to participate in, and that the physical integrity and well-being of their person is a fundamental right to relinquish only at their own discretion. Another culture declares that any of its members must remove the foreskin from their male offspring on the 8th day of their life to remain members in good standing. Obviously these two cultures are at odds with each other from day one, so this legal challenge was an inevitable event. Will one culture realize that cutting the skin off a boy doesn't guarantee that he will ultimately become a productive member of that group? Or will the other culture recognize that to be truly tolerant of religious rights, sometimes a boy's penis must be operated upon without his consent?

You are saying this without the context of parental authority. It is impossible to acquire consent from a boy for anything; so whether it is neurosurgery, life-saving heart surgery, or circumcision, we are required perforce to operate without that individual's consent, as he is deemed incompetent to provide it. I don't see the relevance of this.

If this trend were to be carried to its ultimate expression, the government should deem it criminal to teach children any religion specifically; taking that right and prerogative from the parents. The child must choose for himself, correct? Only the state-approved belief should be tolerated.

Either way the result will be interesting, especially since German legislators are currently drafting laws to specifically address female circumcision. Apparently THAT is a culture no one is too upset about going to war with.

If there was a significant contingent in Germany where that was practiced, I would have a problem with it; just as I said before.

So unless the AAP loses its mind and bases their recommendation on Tarot cards instead of Science I would take their recommendation into consideration and make a rational decision. If having a foreskin endangers the life and well-being of an infant then I would push for the general adoption of circumcision, even against religious concerns.

Good. I wanted this point to be perfectly clear. It seems to me now that your greater objection and position here has to do with parental authority and the prerogatives of the family unit (and religious groups as a larger scale social entity). Could we discuss that? I was starting to get into it before. It seems to me that you want government to take over functions that I prefer and think is better left to individual families.

I think a discussion about parental authority, universal morality, cultural relativism and individual rights probably deserves its own thread. It's a very deep subject, one that extends far beyond the scope of circumcision (although that practice is probably the best example of it).

LarryC wrote:

You are saying this without the context of parental authority. It is impossible to acquire consent from a boy for anything; so whether it is neurosurgery, life-saving heart surgery, or circumcision, we are required perforce to operate without that individual's consent, as he is deemed incompetent to provide it. I don't see the relevance of this.

If this trend were to be carried to its ultimate expression,

No one is talking about carrying anything to its ultimate expression.

Also, you seem to be regarding the child as a non-human: the cost of circumcision is not just the possible medical complications. The cost is the infringement on the rights of the child to their own body. While greater infringements are permissible when talking about those humans under the custody of a competent adult, it doesn't mean the right ceases to exist.

LarryC wrote:

If this trend were to be carried to its ultimate expression, the government should deem it criminal to teach children any religion specifically; taking that right and prerogative from the parents. The child must choose for himself, correct? Only the state-approved belief should be tolerated.

This statement is why I consider your position untenable and why I wish you would separate the issues of 'parental prerogative' and 'family unit vs society' into a different thread.
Somehow you've equated slicing the skin from a child's penis with teaching children religion.
That preventing actual physical harm to children is a trend that deprives them of cultural learning.

What lessons does a barely week-old infant learn about his culture that the state is so afraid he'll learn?

Grubber788:

True, but the article in the OP very explicitly states that the court in this case ruled against both principles of parental authority AND principles of freedom of religion. This isn't really about circumcision; that's practically incidental. It's about the state infringing on religious freedom and progressively dissolving the family unit as well. The article in the OP makes this quite clear.

CheezePavilion:

Also, you seem to be regarding the child as a non-human: the cost of circumcision is not just the possible medical complications. The cost is the infringement on the rights of the child to their own body. While greater infringements are permissible when talking about those humans under the custody of a competent adult, it doesn't mean the right ceases to exist.

That is the topic, yes.

I'm not regarding the child as a non-human. He or she is simply legally incompetent in this instance. The child doesn't have a right to his own body because he or she isn't considered of age to possess it. If you want to empower children to refuse surgery, by all means present your arguments.

Rezzy:

This statement is why I consider your position untenable and why I wish you would separate the issues of 'parental prerogative' and 'family unit vs society' into a different thread.
Somehow you've equated slicing the skin from a child's penis with teaching children religion.
That preventing actual physical harm to children is a trend that deprives them of cultural learning.
What lessons does a barely week-old infant learn about his culture that the state is so afraid he'll learn?

That topic is relevant to this thread; it's one of the central conflicts surrounding the case.

Performance of religious rituals is part of the transmission of religion and culture from one generation to another. I don't know the religious underpinnings of that, since I am neither a Muslim nor a Jew; we'll have to ask them why it's so important.

I'm sure I don't know what the state "is afraid he'll learn" from circumcision, but preventing parents from performing religious rituals considered important to their culture is a gross infringement of their religious freedoms. In this case, I think it's less a case of the state being afraid of the child learning anything, and more the state making a statement that they don't want this particular religion/s in their demesne.

Everyone:

In my view, the court here is making a very bold step to move parenting from the family unit to the state. Parental authority over a relatively "minor" surgical procedure, and moreover one that is important to religious expression (and thus not just any procedure) has immediate implications.

For instance, it has implications with ear piercings for girls. This may illuminate the discussion, as this latter topic may be of less controversial nature, and it has no religious significance that I know of. Furthermore, it has zero medical benefits; all the benefits are cosmetic, and all the risks are medical; it is lower in the scale of medical recommendations, I deem.

In my locality, we leave it to the parents to take charge of this. If the child wants one, he or she must apply to her parent, and we leave it to the parent's best judgement according to their situation. If the state should take charge of this, then the child must apply to the state for this and any such minor surgery they may want or refuse. Alternatively, we give the child full adult authority over his own body. That does not seem like a particularly good idea to me.

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

Also, you seem to be regarding the child as a non-human: the cost of circumcision is not just the possible medical complications. The cost is the infringement on the rights of the child to their own body. While greater infringements are permissible when talking about those humans under the custody of a competent adult, it doesn't mean the right ceases to exist.

That is the topic, yes.

I'm not regarding the child as a non-human. He or she is simply legally incompetent in this instance. The child doesn't have a right to his own body because he or she isn't considered of age to possess it. If you want to empower children to refuse surgery, by all means present your arguments.

Just because you are legally incompetent does not mean you lose your rights. If I fall into a coma I don't lose my rights. Someone else exercises them on my behalf, but they actually have to be exercised on my behalf, not on their behalf, and clearly they continue to exist.

There's a distinction here between possessing a right, and having the power to exercise those rights that I think you are missing.

Everyone:

In my view, the court here is making a very bold step to move parenting from the family unit to the state.

The problem with your view is that it has no nuance and is all-or-nothing. Parenting is not being moved from the family unit to the state. Instead, the state is creating boundaries in which the family unit can exercise parental authority, and certain baseline requirements that must be fulfilled before the state gives the family unit the benefit of the doubt in exercising parental authority.

Are you familiar with the concept of a trustee? If not, it may help you to make sense of what I think a lot of people are saying here.

Just because you are legally incompetent does not mean you lose your rights. If I fall into a coma I don't lose my rights. Someone else exercises them on my behalf, but they actually have to be exercised on my behalf, not on their behalf, and clearly they continue to exist.

There's a distinction here between possessing a right, and having the power to exercise those rights that I think you are missing.

You suppose correctly. Perhaps you might want to elaborate further, with a mind towards gearing its relevancy towards minor surgeries.

The problem with your view is that it has no nuance and is all-or-nothing. Parenting is not being moved from the family unit to the state. Instead, the state is creating boundaries in which the family unit can exercise parental authority, and certain baseline requirements that must be fulfilled before the state gives the family unit the benefit of the doubt in exercising parental authority.

I think that the court in this case isn't creating a boundary; there already was before that, since no one in Germany has any authority to torture children regardless of relation. In this case, it's moving that boundary towards more state control, and less parental control; with a specific mind towards also stepping on a very particular religious ritual.

LarryC wrote:
Just because you are legally incompetent does not mean you lose your rights. If I fall into a coma I don't lose my rights. Someone else exercises them on my behalf, but they actually have to be exercised on my behalf, not on their behalf, and clearly they continue to exist.

There's a distinction here between possessing a right, and having the power to exercise those rights that I think you are missing.

You suppose correctly. Perhaps you might want to elaborate further, with a mind towards gearing its relevancy towards minor surgeries.

Medical necessity plays a much larger role when you are exercising someone else's rights on their behalf than when you're exercising your own. The degree to which the surgery is reversible and is time sensitive also plays a much larger role. Whether a defect (something that came up earlier) is being remedied or not plays a bigger role too. For some more on the topic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mature_...

The problem with your view is that it has no nuance and is all-or-nothing. Parenting is not being moved from the family unit to the state. Instead, the state is creating boundaries in which the family unit can exercise parental authority, and certain baseline requirements that must be fulfilled before the state gives the family unit the benefit of the doubt in exercising parental authority.

I think that the court in this case isn't creating a boundary; there already was before that, since no one in Germany has any authority to torture children regardless of relation. In this case, it's moving that boundary towards more state control, and less parental control;

I don't see the problem with that, as nothing I said depends on the state getting it right at the moment of boundary creation and forsaking ever moving the boundary.

with a specific mind towards also stepping on a very particular religious ritual.

It's possible, but that's a function not of children's rights and how we define the parental authority, but of the motives of the people involved. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

LarryC wrote:

I'm sure I don't know what the state "is afraid he'll learn" from circumcision, but preventing parents from performing religious rituals considered important to their culture is a gross infringement of their religious freedoms. In this case, I think it's less a case of the state being afraid of the child learning anything, and more the state making a statement that they don't want this particular religion/s in their demesne.

Preventing Parents from causing harm to their children is the prerogative of a modern society.
Here's a question I'd like answered:
Should the children of Jewish and Muslim guardians automatically be given less rights than other citizens?
Should Germany create a sub-class of citizens with restricted rights for those citizens born to minority traditions so that the guardians of the child may impose their will upon his or her body without the consequences that would normally be incurred?