Attorneys for the Rights of the Child
2961 Ashby Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
Fax/phone 510-595-5550

CONTACT: J. Steven Svoboda 510-595-5550 (


Berkeley, CA - Doctors who circumcise infants, even with parental assent, are potentially liable for criminal assault. That's the conclusion of an article just published in a legal journal by an international team of lawyers.

No medical indications justify neonatal circumcision, according to the article, and therefore it must now be considered an assault causing grievous bodily harm and a form of genital mutilation.

The article, "Circumcision of Healthy Boys - Criminal Assault?" is written by an Australian psychology professor, Gregory Boyle; a Harvard-educated American attorney and Executive Director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child (ARC), J. Steven Svoboda; an Oxford-educated British attorney, Christopher P. Price, and an Australian attorney and Executive Director of Children Australia, Inc., Professor J. Neville Turner. It appears in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Law and Medicine.

Although fewer than one in five Australian baby boys is circumcised today, the article has created interest and controversy there by challenging the medical profession to cease the practice. Since more than three out of five babies are circumcised in the US - and nearly all in some areas - the controversy is likely to be even greater here.

ARC Executive Director J. Steven Svoboda congratulated the Journal of Law and Medicine for publishing the article and for daring to question received wisdom about the procedure. He pointed out that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conceded in its policy statement in March 1999 the absence of any medical reason sufficient to support "routine" infant circumcision.

"Since the AAP confirmed that circumcision is not a medical issue, it is clear that compelling legal and human rights concerns now demand that it be eradicated," Svoboda said. "This article helps set forth some of the reasons why circumcision must stop."

The articles says the rights to bodily integrity, to liberty and security of the person, and to freedom from discrimination because of sex, religion or race are guaranteed by a number of internationally recognized human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"Infant circumcision seriously breaches the child's rights and is utterly incompatible with the doctor's legal and ethical duties toward the child patient," Svoboda said "A parent's consent cannot justify removal of healthy tissue - whether it be a finger, a breast, a clitoris, or a foreskin - without a valid medical reason."

A $10 million lawsuit by an Ohio boy who lost the tip of his penis in a circumcision was settled last year. Cases are underway where parental consent was considered inadequately informed, but the article opens the way for legal challenges to "successful" circumcisions even where "informed consent" was given by parents.

J. Steven Svoboda
Executive Director

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