Circumcision: What Your Baby Can't Tell You

"A Scream We Will Never Forget"

Some Statements Documenting Infant Circumcision Pain

"[Circumcision causes the baby] little, if any, pain,
since the pain fiber tracts are not yet fully developed."
Neonatal Circumcision Is Necessary,
[pamphlet] by Gerald N. Weiss, MD
11716 Pleasant Ridge Circle #1905
Little Rock, AR 72212-2371

"The pain of [infant] circumcision is not a debatable question; it is a fact." ("Circumcision: Ritual Surgery or Surgical Ritual?," by Edward Wallerstein, Medicine and Law, Springer-Verlag, 1983)

"[Circumcision] is a stressful and painful event ... with ... changes in heart rate, respiratory rate, transcutaneous pO2, adrenal cortical hormone secretions, sleep patterns, and behavioral patterns during and/or following circumcision. Indeed, circumcision has been recommended as a model for studying pain in the neonate, and its effects are suggested to be long lasting." (Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 5, No. 5, October 1984)

"The operation is decidedly painful and in newborns anesthesia (local or general) is rarely used because of the possible risks." ("Physicians have found no health justification for routine circumcision of newborns," New York Times, August 14, 1985)

"Newborns do feel pain ... the contrary belief that the smallest babies ... are oblivious to pain has persisted for decades among many physicians who have routinely operated on these children with little or no anesthesia." ("Infants' Sense of Pain is Recognized, Finally," New York Times, Nov. 24, 1987)

"The American Academy of Pediatrics, saying that even premature babies are capable of feeling pain during surgery, has recommended the use of anesthesia on newborn infants ... the academy, in a policy statement published in the September issue of Pediatrics, said that recent research shows that even premature babies are capable of feeling deep pain in surgery." ("Baby Doctors Say Newborns Can Feel Pain," San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 7, 1987)

"[R]esearch reveals that the pain pathways are much more advanced in newborns than previously thought, and the physical response to pain is the same for both newborns and adults ... Using the pain cry as an indicator, some investigators have shown that newborns are actually more sensitive to pain than older infants ... Babies not only feel the pain of circumcision but they also seem to remember the pain." ("New research shows infants do feel pain at damaging levels," San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 17, 1987)

"Infants undergoing circumcision without anesthesia demonstrate physiologic responses suggesting that they are experiencing pain. The observed responses include behavioral, cardiovascular, and hormonal changes. Pain pathways as well as the cortical and subcortical centers necessary for pain perception are well developed by the third trimester. Responses to painful stimuli have been documented in neonates of all viable gestational ages. Behavioral changes include a cry pattern indicating distress during the circumcision procedure and changes in activity (irritability, varying sleep patterns) and in infant-maternal interaction for the first few hours after." (Report of the Task Force on Circumcision, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1989)

"The younger the child is, the closer he is to conception, the more open and vulnerable that child is to hurt. Newborn babies have that much more feelings, more sensitivity, and are more vulnerable to pain than older children." (E. Michael Holden, MD [quoted], Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma), by Rosemary Romberg, Bergin & Garvey, 1985, p. 306

"[I]t has been argued that the infant suffers little or no pain in the circumcision process. The evidence offered is that in the ritual Jewish circumcision, the infant, who is given an alcohol teat during surgery, cries little and almost immediately goes to sleep. That argument shows an ignorance of the effects of alcohol on infants and fails to acknowledge that 'sleep' may be a response to pain." ("Circumcision as Child Abuse: The Legal and Constitutional Issues," by William E. Brigman, Journal of Family Law, University of Louisville School of Law, Louisville, Kentucky)

"A newborn baby is ... as able to perceive pain as any other person ... Some babies scream frantically while being circumcised. However, some babies ... lapse into a semi-coma ... the pain and trauma are so great that the baby cannot cry! This absence of crying has led many parents, doctors and others to believe that the operation did not hurt him." ("Circumcision," by Rosemary Romberg, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story -- A Selection of Articles, Letters, and Resources, 1979-1993, edited by Peggy O'Mara, Mothering)

"I know that the circumcisions I have done, without exception, have been painful for the baby. In medical school I was taught that the baby's nervous system is not developed sufficiently to be aware of the pain ... But my experience in doing it and observing the baby's reactions tell me otherwise." (Howard Marchbanks, MD [quoted], Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma, p. 133)

"After witnessing many circumcisions, I can say: Yes, it hurts. It's pure and simple torture." ("A Nurse's View on Circumcision," by Terry Schultz, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story)

"I've videotaped circumcisions for teaching purposes, and no one, especially the doctor, is aware of the pain until he sees the baby's reaction on tape. It's horrifying--there's no doubt that he's feeling intense pain." ("Second Thoughts About Circumcision," by Marianne Neifert, MD, Pediatrician, Child, Jan./Feb. 1989)

"I repeatedly asked the doctor if it [the circumcision operation] would hurt Shawn and he repeatedly said no." (Shawn's mother, Vicki Campbell [quoted], Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma, p. 317)

"I have never heard such screams." ("Zachary's Circumcision," by his mother, Lauren Friederich, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story)

"Jesse let out a scream we will never forget. It crescendoed up and up until his mouth hung open, face distorted, and no sound came out." ("Jesse's Circumcision," by his father, M. Pickard-Ginsberg, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story)

"They told me there would be no pain ... a tremendous flash of blinding white pain surged through my entire body ... I thought I had been electrocuted and was dead ... The pain was the worst I have ever had ... I cannot imagine any pain possibly being worse." (From a letter to Rosemary Romberg from a man in Florida, circumcised at age 25 under local anesthesia)

"I will die hearing my baby's screams." (Miriam Pollack, Third International Symposium on Circumcision, University of Maryland, May 1994)