The Unkindest Cut – The Cost of Circumcision

Circumcision is a contentious subject. While many  people believe it’s a harmless practice and produces an aesthetically  pleasing penis with a myriad of (dubious) health benefits, many consider the non-prescriptive usage of the procedure to effectively be pointless mutilation of a child due to cultural reasons.

Let’s get this straight. This is not Female Genital Mutilation, the effect of circumcision on men and women is entirely different and cannot be compared. In fact there are a fair few men who have to have circumcisions at some point in their life for therapeutic purposes but such a procedure is done under a licensed setting by a licensed individual trained to perform this procedure.

Out of 500 circumcisions, 1 ends in complications and the complications are generally severe. Circumcision is not a cosmetic procedure and should not be treated as such. 

A doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital on the second or third day after birth, does not fulfill the requirements of a Bris Milah and is not considered valid according to Jewish law. The Bris must be performed by a Jewish person who understands, upholds, and practices the tenets of the Jewish religion, and is specially trained to function as a mohel.

This pseudo-scientific religious quackery comes from Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg. A mohel or Jewish Circumcisor demonstrates the problem in America.

Circumcision is NOT regarded as a medical procedure and is unlicensed, this allows mohels like Rosenberg to perform their procedure without any knowledge of proper medical technique solely because they are priests. This allows them to not only encourage circumcisions but also make rather false claims about the procedure. In this case encouraging people to have a non-medical circumcision because “religion”.

And damn the cost.

The cost being paid by a 8 day old boy who’s penis was severed during a circumcision by the Rabbi.

“I am trained in this, this is a tragic accident and a horrible situation” – Rabbi Rosenberg

Apart from clumsy hands and a rather terrifying world view that the ideal knowledge of medicine was reached by 3000 year old proto-Jews and that we must emulate these sons of the sands rather than modern medical practice, the good Rabbi has a penchant for the understatement.

Had a doctor done this he would be suspended pending review. Accidents happen in the OT after all. It’s not your fault if equipment failure occurs. Not even the most staunch doctors can operate if jostled and such accidents happen. However the lack of oversight means that the Rabbi not only is not beholding to any licensing board but has continued to perform circumcisions.

The thing with the penis is it’s actually filled with blood. It’s designed like a balloon. To engorge with blood and so is heavily supplied with arterial blood. The severing of the penis can result in massive blood loss particularly in infants for whom total circulating volume is already low reaching shock at a much quicker pace.

The baby required 8 hours of emergency reconstructive micro-surgery. The techniques require incredible patience and steady hands to fix and suture tiny arteries so that they flow. Imagine trying to stitch two garden hoses in full flow together without turning off the water.

Now imagine trying to do that with garden hoses a couple of millimetres thick. And remember through this all the baby is losing blood so requires blood transfusions. Nearly 6 units of blood was transfused to keep the baby alive through the procedure. The child also need 3 months of hospitalisation and even then the outcome is uncertain.

There are nerves within the penis and these help transmit touch and therefore pleasure. Loss of which would result in a non-functional penis. Erections would occur due to psychogenic stimulation but sex would not result in ejaculation as the input of touch is lost. We will not know for a long time if the patient is capable of leading a healthy life.

It is quackery. Plain and simple. It is quackery endorsed by religion and that is so entrenched in culture that we are unwilling to discuss it. It is a pointless procedure if done for aesthetics and this is aesthetics. I am sure a kind and loving god would not deny anyone a place in heaven based solely on their genital intactness.


  1. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    For the record there are plenty of mohels who are also MDs. I still don’t think it’s right to cut bits off a baby for no medical reason, even if it is in a hospital, but this back alley quackery is not the norm.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    Circumcision would be fine … if it were only ever carried out in cases of actual medical need or at the adult, uncoerced patient’s own request. Fucking consent, how does it work.

  3. says

    You seriously need to mess with people’s heads to make neonatal circumcision appealing to them.
    In Germany, there is a neonatal blood screening for certain metabolic diseases, because the earlier you find out, the more damage you can prevent.
    Now you just carried that baby for 9 months. You’ve given birth, endured pain, maybe had a c-section to make sure the babe was safe and then somebody approaches the baby with a needle and wants to poke a hole in them. Sure, you understand why it’s necesary and good and that there are hardly any risks and only a tiny bit of pain that is soon forgotten, but you hate the nurse passionately in a very irrational way.
    What do you have to do with somebody’s head so they would happily and willingly hand over their new-born son so healthy bits can be chopped off and they’re even obliged and happy?

  4. Dan Bollinger says

    The author talks about the emotional and physical cost of circumcision using a horrific case that happens in one of 500 circumcisions. And then there’s the more than one hundred deaths from circumcision-related causes each year. There is also the monetary cost–or profit–from doing circumcisions which is an incentive for continuing mass unnecessary surgeries upon infants. Here is a white paper I wrote on the topic.

    What is the true monetary cost of male infant circumcision?
    Would you believe almost two billion dollars a year? Let’s add it up. The procedure is billed an average of $313, with the physician receiving about $166; modest amounts for a medical procedure. But this isn’t the end of the calculation. A hidden cost is the extra one-quarter day of hospital stay, about $429 per child, bringing the average cost to $752 per circumcision.[1] The lifetime cost from circumcision-related health issues including repairs is expensive with some boys needing multiple surgeries, about $363 per male. So the grand total cost per circumcision is about $1,428.

    Still, that’s not a large price tag, but what is lost in price point is gained in volume. About 1.2 million circumcisions are performed each year in the United States, which makes the grand total $1.85 billion (and about $800 million for just circumcision alone).[2-3] Not such a paltry sum now, is it? That’s enough to buy 23,000 advanced life support ambulances, nearly 8 for every one of the 3033 counties in the United States. This means that utilitarian circumcision room is one of the most profitable areas in a hospital.

    As they saying goes: Follow the money. Now you know why the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) hasn’t condemned this unnecessary surgery and why physicians are quick to broach the topic with expectant parents. As one physician brazenly admitted, “I love doing circumcisions. They pay for my Mercedes payment!”[4] In fact, a busy physician can make more than $40,000 a year from doing circumcisions. That’s more than what half of what Americans earn in a year![4]

    But wait. We know that erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common in circumcised than intact men. The cost of ED drugs for the proportional increase due to circumcision works out to more than $2.6 billion annually. When this is added in the grand total cost of circumcisions is $4.5 billion a year.[5]

    1. Van Howe, R. S. (2004). A cost-utility analysis of neonatal circumcision. Medical Decision Making, 24, 584–601. (allowing for medical inflation from 2004 to 2012)
    2. Calculated from Van Howe
    3. Fauntleroy, G. (2001, July 30). Infant circumcision: The debate over parents’ rights, human rights and the right to choose. The New Mexican. (Estimated cost was $2 billion in 2001)
    4. Bollinger, D. (2010). Lost boys: An estimate of US circumcision-related infant deaths. Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies, 4(1):78-90.
    5. Calculated by ICGI from data from various sources.

  5. Kaynejack . says

    People keep claiming that female circumcision and male circumcision cannot be compared. The people who claim that have NOT done their homework. They are completely comperable. Most female circumcisions, such as those done in Egypt remove only the clitoral hood. It is the same structure on the female as it is on the male. Both are prepuce, Both are removed for the very same, very specious reasoning.

    Yet, even the slightest pinprick of female genitals is illegal in most countries, but full removal of erogenous tissue from a male isn’t even regulated.

    Some will claim that in extreme circumstances female circumcision removes not just the prepuce, but the clitorus, labia and sews shut the remaining folds to block the vaginal opening. In these rare instances it would be compared to a complete penectomy of the male. The AAP states that severe complications like penile amputation happen only to .2% (1 in 500) of circumcised baby boys. But the study the AAP quoted stated the severe complication rate was actually 2%. (intentional misprint by the AAP?) So let’s run the numbers. 2 in 100 boys will suffer fates equal to full infibulation, such as what happens during female circumcision. That means for Americans who circumcise over 1 million boys a year, there are between 2000 and 20,000 boys that suffer just as bad or worse than girls who go through the worst form of female circumcision. That is, each and every year in the USA up to 20,000 boys suffer horrible lifelong disfigurements due to “routine” circumcision.

    Can we really call female and male circumcision two different things that cannot be compared? The only reason we don’t hear more about these horrible botches is because of the parent’s shame after the fact, and not wanting a “personal family tragedy” to be publicised in the news.

    But it still happens.

    Circumcision of either sex is a horrible practice that sincerely needs to end. Male or female, all children deserve to grow up with all the parts they were born with. If we choose to protect one from genital cutting, then we should protect all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>