Cutting Through Red Tape: Non-therapeutic Circumcision and Unethical Guidelines

Clinical Ethics 4 (4):181-186 (2009)
Current General Medical Council guidelines state that any doctor who does not wish to carry out a non-therapeutic circumcision (NTC) on a boy must invoke conscientious objection. This paper argues that this is illogical, as it is clear that an ethical doctor will object to conducting a clinically unnecessary operation on a child who cannot consent simply because of the parents’ religious beliefs. Comparison of the GMC guidelines with the more sensible British Medical Association guidance reveals that both are biased in favour of NTC and subvert standard consent procedures. It is further argued that any doctor who does participate in non-therapeutic circumcision of a minor may be guilty of negligence and in breach of the Human Rights Act. In fact, the GMC guidance implies that doctors must claim conscientious objection if they do not wish to be negligent. Both sets of guidelines should be changed to ensure an objective consent process and avoid confusion over the ethics of NTC.
Keywords Clinical ethics  Circumcision  Consent  Children
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DOI 10.1258/ce.2009.009029
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