ABC News Chat
With Dr. George Denniston


ABC News Chat With Dr. George Denniston July 6

A Case Against Circumcision

Circumcision is the most common surgery performed in this country, but is it really necessary? The American Academy of Pediatrics describes circumcision as a procedure that has some medical benefits and some risks.

But doctors like Dr. George Denniston say snipping off a baby boy's foreskin is cruel and unethical. Opponents also say circumcision as a child can result in less sexual pleasure as an adult.

Denniston, founder of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, joined us for a live chat on July 6. The following is a transcript of the chat.

Moderator at 3:00pm EH
We're ready to get started. Before we take questions, Dr. Denniston has some opening remarks he'd like to make.

Dr. George Denniston at 3:02pm ET
Doctors Opposing Circumcision is an international organization that has members in 50 States, and on six continents. We claim that: Circumcision of the male is totally unnecessary, as is circumcision of the female. Circumcising for hygiene is as absurd as removing the eyelid for eye hygiene. Circumcision is painful and harmful in many ways. Anyone who circumcises should have to prove that circumcision does not harm the individual, and they cannot.

Bill from [], at 3:03pm ET
What would you say to the Jewish parents of a new baby boy? Do you recommend that even Jews refrain from circumcision?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:05pm ET
It is going to be up to Jewish parents to decide what they will do. I am happy to report that many Jews are re-considering this issue. Please read Questioning Circumcision available from

Pete from at 3:05pm ET
In what way does circumcision affect a mans ability to experience sexual pleasure?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:07pm ET
Circumcision removes half of the normal skin of the penis. It contains thousands of specialized nerve endings, just like the ones in the lips. Since America has a high incidence of impotence and of circumcision, we don't have to prove anything. A doctor who does this unnecessary procedure must have to demonstrate that it does not harm, does not cause impotence and he cannot.

chris from [], at 3:08pm ET
I have read that men who are not circumcised and if not careful in cleaning themselves can infect women. In personal life experience I found this to be true. What is your answer?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:10pm ET
It turns out that men who are circumcised transmit more Sexually transmitted Diseases than intact men, accord to JAMA study.
As for hygiene, few Americans realize that an intact adult male can easily retract his loose foreskin and look like a circumcised male. Then hygiene is identical.

joe from [], at 3:11pm ET
Do you think the child feels awkward is his other playmates are circumcised, and he isn't? Or his father is and he isn't?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:12pm ET
It is important to tell an intact child that it is he who is normal, and has not been cut. He is happy to know that and has little difficulty if he knows that.

ali from [] at 3:14pm ET
Dr. what is the percentages of men circumcised and those who are not. Also, do you know of the percentages worldwide?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:16pm ET
Some have estimated that it is about 50-50 in the US because lots of older men were never done. Right now, 60% of male infants born in the US are cut. 40% are not. On the West coast only 35% are cut.
World wide most of the men who have ever lived are intact. The US is the only country in the entire world that does this to a majority of its sons without a religious reason.

Stephen from [], at 3:17pm ET
Is foreskin restoration practical? How does it work?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:19pm ET
Foreskin restoration is being done by thousands of American men who resent this part of their body being taken away from them. It is usually done by slowly stretching remaining skin, and does five some protection to the glans, and makes it nearer to the normal state. DOC recognizes that it is normal for a cut male to want to do this.

Mike from [], at 3:20pm EH
Have any studies been done that show uncircumcised men are less likely to be impotent, or are you simply saying that you THINK that there is a link?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:22pm EH
If the rate of impotence in America is unusually high, and if the rate of circumcision is unusually high, to suspect a link. Those who perform circumcisions should have to prove they are not causing this and many other problems that we recognize may well be related.

Keith from [], at 3:23pm EH
How can you say that circumcision is cruel and painful to a child? I am circumcised and have no memory of it happening. Do you know of infants that grew up with painful memories?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:25pm EH
Yes I have heard from men who remember clearly the experience of their circumcision. Others have re-experienced it through regression. We now understand much more about infants, and know they feel pain, and are quite intelligent and aware. so we are now looking at this differently than we did before.

Austin from [], at 3:26pm EH
Does circumcision affect the size of the penis?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:28pm EH
I do not know of any studies that prove this one way or the other. some men definitely claim it does make it smaller. One thing we do know is that if too much skin is removed men may have more difficulty with erections because that is one of the functions of the foreskin - To cover the elongated shaft of an erect penis!

TC from [] at 3:29pm EH
Why do so many doctors indicate that for health reasons, boys should be circumsized?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:30pm EH
That is the tragedy of circumcision in America. There are several myths that many Americans believe including doctors, and there is tremendous pressure to continue the practice, right or wrong.

Bonnie from [], at 3:32pm EH
How much pain do you think newborns really feel? How much does the perception of pain vary over the first few days of life?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:34pm EH
Infants in the first few days of life experience this as excruciating pain. A classic article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1987 proved that they feel as much if not more pain than adults. It is much the same during the first few days and weeks of life.

Daren from [], at 3:36pm EH
What about the men who continually develop infections due to LACK of circumcision.... I know a man who had such severe infections, that he was forced to get circumsised at 30 years old, and now has had NO infections at all ........

Dr. George Denniston at 3:38pm EH
In foreskin-friendly nations in Europe like Finland, the risk of having a circumcision at birth is zero and the rate of needing them for medical reasons is one in 16,667. Very rare. Most infections can easily be treated conservatively, if the doctor cared to, or knew how to. But in America they usually say, "Cut it off!" A strange treatment for infections of any kind.

Kate from [], at 3:39pm EH
Excuse me, Dr., but TC asked a question that you did not answer. Are there no health indications for circumcision? Are you saying doctors in America do this for fun?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:42pm EH
There are no health reasons for doing circumcision. There are just excuses. Take cancer of the penis. They say it prevents, so cut it off. We say it is very rare 1 in 100,000 and a doctor simply cannot justify removing 100,000 normal useful healthy functioning foreskins to possibly prevent one cancer of the penis in an older man.

rick from [], at 3:43pm EH
What is your speciality, are you a urologist?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:45pm EH
I am a Clinical Asst Professor in Family Medicine, and am Board Certified in Preventive Medicine. We are appealing to all women to learn more about this tragic procedure and decide for yourselves what you think about it. Please read this issue of Men's Health and our book, Say No to Circumcision, available from

kelly from [], at 3:46pm EH
I have first-hand experience with raising uncircumcised boys. They are 10 and 7 and have never had a problem. Typically by the time the foreskin is retractable most boys are capable of cleaning themselves. After all, I had to teach my daughter how to clean herself! My boys have seen circumcised boys and my husband and I explained the difference. They thanked us for leaving them exactly the way they were born. We is everyone so concerned that an uncircumcised boy will be traumatized for life?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:48pm EH
Americans are concerned because they have misinformation. Until recently the correct information has simply not been available. We had trouble getting our articles published in the medical journals. Doctors lose their jobs for refusing to circumcise. Things are changing and the media has finally GOTTEN IT! There is no excuse for doing this, and we must stop.

JBM2 from [], at 3:50pm EH
what about fathers... have we no say in our son's health?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:54pm EH
Of course, we want to include fathers. It is just much more difficult for them for they have been victimized, and physically harmed. We very much admire those men who having been cut themselves, have the courage to say It should never have been done to me and I will not do it to anyone else. Women are now protected by law in America from having their genitals cut unnecessarily, and hopefully are able to look at this issue a little more objectively. They want to protect their sons fiercely, and when they do realize what is going on they WILL!

Jean from [], at 3:54pm EH
Many expectant parents are not aware that the procedure is done without anesthesia & some even think it's not painful at all. What are the obstacles to informing them as a routine part of prenatal care?

Dr. George Denniston at 3:56pm EH
You are correct that parents are not properly informed. If they were they would rarely do it. so those who wish to perpetuate this practice withhold information, there is rarely appropriate informed consent. We object to that, especially these days. There is an organization, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, that is very interested in seeing that this not continue.

andrew from [], at 3:58pm EH
You say "useful healthy functioning foreskins". Maybe I missed it, but what *exactly* is their 'function'? You've admitted a 1 in 100000 chance of preventing penis cancer (a gamble I'd probably cut a finger off to prevent, never mind foreskin), so what convincing function will be missed without it?

Dr. George Denniston at 4:01pm EH
The foreskin protects the glans the tip thruout life. It is designed to be an internal organ in all mammals. The foreskin is there to cover the elongated shaft of the erect penis. It is longer, don't forget. Where does the skin come from to cover it? that is why some cut penises curve!
The third function is sexual pleasure. Most of the nerve endings are there.

jeff from [], at 4:03pm EH
If a family decides to circumcise a newly born for religious reasons, would there be ways to reduce/eliminate the pain?

Dr. George Denniston at 4:05pm EH
Rabbis met recently at Yeshiva University in New York, and agreed that if anesthesia is available, it is unethical not to use it, I was told by a mohel who has been anesthetizing for 30 years. I might just suggest that if we have all been so wrong about pain for so long, might we not also be deadly wrong about the entire procedure?

Moderator at 4:14pm EH
That's all the time we have today. Thanks for sending in questions! As always, we wish we could post all of them, but there were just too many.

And thanks to Dr. Denniston for being our guest.

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