Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tattoos and Circumcision

An Associated Press story the other day caught my eye, and I thought I would share it with you for your comments because the defense attorney raised the issue of circumcision.

Turns out that Enrique Gonzalez from Fresno, California, wanted his 7-year old son to have a small paw print tattoo on his hip. The dad has a lot of those tatts cuz it's like a tattoo for a gang called the Bulldogs. The boy, too, wanted the tattoo to be like his dad, although a 7-year in most states is not considered old enough under the law to know what he wants. Still, in many states, it's perfectly legal for parents to have their kids tattooed, but in California apparently nobody under 18 is allowed to get a tatt.

Anyways, Enrique and his buddies either didn't know the law or didn't care because they went ahead and put a small, quarter size paw tatt on this kid. Now Fresno is throwing the book at Enrique saying he has maimed (bodily mayhem) and disfigured his son against the law, charging him with crimes that could jail him for life.

The judge is not so sure. Here's part of the AP story:

"But testimony at the preliminary hearing this week to establish which charges the evidence supports gave pause to Fresno County Superior Court Judge Hillary Chittick.

"A defense attorney, seeking to undermine the potential mayhem charge, raised the issue of a painful, irreversible, and increasingly controversial medical procedure with the boy's pediatrician, a witness for the prosecution.

"Which is more painful, circumcision or a tattoo?" asked public defender Manuel Nieto about the practice performed on a decreasing number of newborn boys.

"I would guess the circumcision," Dr. Carmela Sosa responded. . . .

"It seems to the court," Judge Chittick said as she asked Monday for a few days to think, "that mayhem requires a certain level of bodily injury, and I'm not sure a quarter-sized tattoo meets that."

What I find interesting about this story is the smart defense attorney's linking of circumcision with the tattoo. Now first off, I have no problems with tatts on little kids if small and not in an inappropriate place (like a face). Nowadays, most kids get 'em in college anyways. But tattoos are different from removing the filthy foreskin from a kid. While both tatts and circs "beautify" part of the body, readers of this blog know that my big push for universal circumcision is the health benefits it confers. I don't think tattoos have a health benefit!

The anti-circumcision fanatics want everyone to believe that circumcising a kid is mutilation and a crime. They even have lawyers who go around trying to sue doctors and parents on behalf of circumcised kids. Fortunately, these cases are losers. Why? Because not only is the kid not harmed by circumcision, there is sound medical evidence that it protects the male from HIV, STDs, HPV, cancer, etc. And, so far, no court has denied a parent the right to do what is in the best medical interest of the child -- circumcise him!

The Gonzalez lawyer knows this, so he is cleverly linking tattoos with circumcision. Will it work? I don't know. Let's hear what you think!

23 comments:

  1. Never really linked tattoos with circumcision. My kid is circumcised for sure, and he wanted a lil tatt cuz I got some, so we said YES. Its total bullshit nailing that dude for tattooing his kid.

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  2. The father still faces a charge of "cruel and inhumane treatment of a child" with a possible jail term of seven years, for something that is self-evidently less of a modification than circumcision.

    Tattooing a child is still an abuse whatever you and Anonymous may say, because it is permanent, and when he grows up to think like an adult he may not want it. Same for circumcision.

    "And, so far, no court has denied a parent the right to do what is in the best medical interest of the child -- circumcise him!"

    WRONG. In the Boldt case in Oregon, the father was not allowed to have his his unwilling 14-year old circumcised. And in North Carolina, polygamist Johnny Marlowe has got 150 days in the slammer for circumcising his sons with a box cutter. One bled for 11 hours. He's lucky to be alive.

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  3. I find it astonishing that people are discussing circumcision and tattooing of children in the same "breath".

    There are no known medical benefits to tattooing (and no reason to suspect any unknown ones), and there are small but real risks. As such, the net effect is negative (this is a mathematical certainty, since zero minus any non-zero quantity must be negative).

    In the case of circumcision, there are several known medical benefits (eg., HIV, UTI, HPV), and more benefits for which the evidence, while not consisting of randomised controlled trials, is nonetheless very strong. These must be weighed against the risks, which again are small but real. There's some debate over the magnitude of both the benefits and risks, leading to different assessments of the risk:benefit balance. However, most reasonable observers agree that the net effect of circumcision is either neutral or positive.

    So why is it even meaningful to compare the two, I wonder?

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    Replies
    1. None of those "benefits" hold any actual credibility so..

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  4. I made the same point, Jake. As far as I know, tattoos have no health benefits unlike newborn circumcision. The link between tatts and circ was made by the defendant's lawyer -- and the judge has just dropped the "bodily mayhem" charge that could have put him in jail for life. I think the link is really over the question of parents rights. Hugh7 would equate tatts and circs, denying parents the right to do both, while I strongly support parental rights, which means both circing and tattoing a kid (within reason, as stated above).

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  5. I think the link is really over the question of parents rights. Hugh7 would equate tatts and circs, denying parents the right to do both, while I strongly support parental rights, which means both circing and tattoing a kid (within reason, as stated above).


    PD -- what about the case of a teenaged son who wants a circumcision but whose parents don't want him to get one?

    Also, what about the state's right to encourage boys (as well as men) to get circumcisions?

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  6. To the last Anonymous, I think a boy, at any age, is entitled to the healthy protection of a circumcision. Given the overwhelming medical evidence of the dangers of the foreskin, denying a teenager (or any boy) a clean-cut penis is morally reprehensible. If a teenager wants a circumcision and his parents do not, the teenager's desire should be honored. It does, however, raise the question of payment. That's where groups like Operation Abraham come in.

    As for the role of government, regular readers of this blog know that I believe it is long overdue for the U.S. government to declare, through the CDC or other appropriate groups, that it is American health policy that all boys be circumcised. Furthermore, while perhaps the minority view, I also believe that circumcision should be mandatory -- like vaccinations -- except for the rare medical, religious, or other conscientious objection.

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  7. I believe, like Provoking Debate, that circumcision should be mandatory, except that I think it should be mandatory *twice*. Every man, including Provoking, must be cut twice, by law, just to make sure there is absolutely no remnant of the filthy foreskin. I bet that Provoking, like too many men, has some inner skin left, and this is a risk to himself and his partner. It's that filthy inner skin that is packed with disease-inviting cells. Once it's law, no man will be able to get away with having any foreskin remnant left.

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  8. Jake, it's far from obvious that not tattooing a child leaves every option open to him in the future. In some cultures, not being tattooed might put you at risk for abuse, for example. He might not be able to afford it as an adult. Let's leave it up to parents. Clearly if it's okay to circumcise, it's gotta be okay to tattoo. Neither causes any harm or damage!

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  9. As for the role of government, regular readers of this blog know that I believe it is long overdue for the U.S. government to declare, through the CDC or other appropriate groups, that it is American health policy that all boys be circumcised.

    Are you seeing that as merely a statement of intent or should there be any enforcement policies (e.g., a presumption that a boy should be circumcised *unless* the parents object?)

    Furthermore, while perhaps the minority view, I also believe that circumcision should be mandatory -- like vaccinations -- except for the rare medical, religious, or other conscientious objection.

    How would one register as a conscientious objector? What would the tests be? Would both parents have to do so, or only one? How would the mandatory policy be policed -- doctor's note that the boy was circumcised? medical inspections?

    Would there be different policies, legal presumptions and tests, for younger boys, teenagers, and adult men?

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  10. So why is it even meaningful to compare the two, I wonder?

    Because the child grows up to be a man with his own opinion about what parts of his own body he wants to keep, or have permanently decorated.

    He might grow up to want a tattoo on his foreskin...

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  11. To respond to Hugh7:

    Because the child grows up to be a man with his own opinion about what parts of his own body he wants to keep, or have permanently decorated.

    Yes, he might resent choices made for him, but then he might resent being vaccinated against common diseases, he might resent having been educated, etc. Given practically any parenting choice, there's potential for it to be resented later on, so are we to conclude that parents should just avoid making any decisions? Oh, wait, that might be resented, too!

    Fact is, avoiding the possibility that a child might resent a parental decision is simply not possible, and even if it were, it would be impractical to avoid all decisions for fear that they might one day be resented. Parents have to be able to do what they think is best for a child, and society in general gives them plenty of room to do so. The exception made is part of the responsibility of a society to protect the vulnerable from harm: if a decision would cause a significant net harm to a child, society usually steps in to prevent it. As I've pointed out above, tattooing a child is a net harm. Whether it is significant enough as a net harm is a matter for the courts to decide; personally I think it would do more harm than good to the child to be tattooed.

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  12. Jake said:

    ". . .most reasonable observers agree that the net effect of circumcision is either neutral or positive."

    Baloney. Most reasonable people in the world have never even heard of circumcision. Where it is practiced, most reasonable people agree that female circumcision is beneficial and causes no harm.

    The benefits of circumcision are prospective and unprovable. If you are circumcised and get a UTI, should you be circumcised again? If you get HIV, was your circumcision inadequate, and should you blame the surgeon for leaving too much skin?

    I see right through Jake's penchant for his medical justification of circumcision. It has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with the fact that he decided, as an adult, to get circumcised to his specification.

    I am absolutely furious that I, with my scarred and withered penis (oh, it wasn't medical: it was Jewish) am dismissed by circumcisers as a "risk", as they so delicately put it. I'll respect Jake's opinion more when he submits to a re-circumcision that leaves some serious scarring and pain on erection. Jake and his designer penis have no credibility in this debate. He has no medical or altruistic motivation.

    -John

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  13. To respond to John's comments:

    Baloney. Most reasonable people in the world have never even heard of circumcision.

    Please read more carefully. I said "most reasonable observers" (emph. added), and in the context of my remarks "observers" clearly meant those who had weighed up the risk:benefit balance.

    Where it is practiced, most reasonable people agree that female circumcision is beneficial and causes no harm.

    I'm not sure how a reasonable person would be able to construct such an argument, given that little if any evidence would support that position.

    The benefits of circumcision are prospective and unprovable. If you are circumcised and get a UTI, should you be circumcised again? If you get HIV, was your circumcision inadequate, and should you blame the surgeon for leaving too much skin?

    Perhaps you are unaware that almost all benefits of circumcision are in the form of a relative reduction in risk. That is, the effect of circumcision is to reduce the probability of disease from one probability to a smaller probability. This being so, it is unfortunately the case that a non-zero fraction of circumcised males will get a UTI, and another fraction will get HIV.

    I see right through Jake's penchant for his medical justification of circumcision. It has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with the fact that he decided, as an adult, to get circumcised to his specification.

    Very funny. I always enjoy it when people in a debate suddenly introduce their own ability to read other people's minds.

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  14. Jake's response to Hugh7 is strange, because he doesn't actually respond at all. In fact he ignores Hugh7, and then lists some weird comparisons to circumcision. I, with my scarred penis, am tired of people like Jake telling me that actions such as vaccinations, good nutrition, education, and so forth, are somehow in the same basket as amputation of sexual tissue from children.

    Jake is not sure - as if this is some sort of argument - that reasonable people in countries where (female) circumcision is practiced agree that circumcision is beneficial and harmless. It's the same sort of weak thinking from people who start sentences with "I don't see how . . ." Of course you don't see how, of course you're not sure, but that isn't an argument.

    And of course I'm aware of "risk reduction." You could reduce the risk of disease by cutting off your children's lips. Then they couldn't get lip cancer or herpes infections of the lips. And, there's no medical study proving that children without lips have been harmed or feel they are missing anything. But lips aren't penises. It's sex that drives circumcision under medical guise. We could save people from all sorts of diseases by cutting off body parts at birth. Somehow only amputation of sexual tissue excites the minds of men.

    -John

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  15. To reply to John:

    Jake's response to Hugh7 is strange, because he doesn't actually respond at all. In fact he ignores Hugh7, and then lists some weird comparisons to circumcision.

    This was actually a response, but perhaps it was less clear than it might have been. To remind you, Hugh7 stated that "the child grows up to be a man with his own opinion about what parts of his own body he wants to keep", his argument presumably being that he might wish to be uncircumcised, and might therefore resent having been circumcised. As I pointed out through numerous examples, this by itself is a weak argument.

    Jake is not sure - as if this is some sort of argument - that reasonable people in countries where (female) circumcision is practiced agree that circumcision is beneficial and harmless. It's the same sort of weak thinking from people who start sentences with "I don't see how . . ." Of course you don't see how, of course you're not sure, but that isn't an argument.

    I see. Politeness is a lack of an argument, is it? :) Hugh7 apparently is sure, since he confidently asserts that "Where it is practiced, most reasonable people agree that female circumcision is beneficial and causes no harm." Assuming that his confidence is due to his possession of factual data, all he needs to do is to share with us this evidence and then we can all be sure.

    And of course I'm aware of "risk reduction." You could reduce the risk of disease by cutting off your children's lips. Then they couldn't get lip cancer or herpes infections of the lips.

    Quite possibly, yes.

    And, there's no medical study proving that children without lips have been harmed or feel they are missing anything.

    Nevertheless, common sense alone would suggest both immediate risks and longer-term harms. Or are you seriously suggesting that lip excision would be a net benefit?

    But lips aren't penises. It's sex that drives circumcision under medical guise. We could save people from all sorts of diseases by cutting off body parts at birth. Somehow only amputation of sexual tissue excites the minds of men.

    Oddly put, but yes, circumcision does seem to be unusual: it is highly unusual, if not unique, among surgeries since almost every other procedure is a net harm.

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  16. I enjoy Jake's ability to proclaim things that, were he on the opposite side of the debate, he would soundly wallop. His statement that

    ". . . most reasonable observers agree that the net effect of circumcision is either neutral or positive."

    is a great example of opinion pawned as fact, using a turn of phrase designed to make it look like only unreasonable people could disagree with him. Restriction to "reasonable observers" permits him select his result, because he is selecting his observers. But using our dear Wikipedia article as a source, there are a great many reasonable observers who don't see neonatal circumcision as neutral, much less positive. The proclamation that it is "most" is wishful exaggeration. I think you could get away with "some reasonable observers."
    -John

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  17. Jake said

    ". . . it is highly unusual, if not unique, among surgeries since almost every other procedure is a net harm."

    Debatable, but more important, circumcision - of boys and girls - is unique because it involves the amputation of healthy tissue, sexual tissue, from non-consenting minors, and it is done for an astonishing variety of incoherent and shifting reasons outside the realm of religious obligation. One cannot really keep a straight face when claiming there is a medical reason, given the hilarious list given by the serious medical profession over the last 100 years. Not to mention the howler from PD that it might prevent the flu!

    Again, if people insisted on amputating lips from boys for cultural reasons, eventually a medical study - done by men without their lips, or their wives - would show some net benefit, like elimination of lip cancer and reduction of sexually transmitted diseases. Get out the knives, Jake and PD?

    I could agree with a lot of what Jake says if it were constrained to consenting adults. Our lives are not lived in the realm of statistics. There was no net benefit to the damage done to me. I'm willing to stick my neck out to end a practice that badly hurt me, and no doubt has maimed tens of thousands of men in the U.S, just a tiny fraction of a percent of circumcised men, but nevertheless a lot of people. Jake has not explained his motivation for defending neonatal circumcision, and how it might relate to his circumcision. I'd like to hear it.

    -John

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  18. To reply to John's comment dated October 9, 2009 7:35 PM:

    His statement that

    ". . . most reasonable observers agree that the net effect of circumcision is either neutral or positive."

    is a great example of opinion pawned as fact, using a turn of phrase designed to make it look like only unreasonable people could disagree with him. Restriction to "reasonable observers" permits him select his result, because he is selecting his observers. But using our dear Wikipedia article as a source, there are a great many reasonable observers who don't see neonatal circumcision as neutral, much less positive. The proclamation that it is "most" is wishful exaggeration. I think you could get away with "some reasonable observers."


    I stand by my statement. If you believe that there are a significant number of exceptions, I invite you to identify some of those, and we'll discuss them and assess how reasonable they are.

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  19. To reply to John's comment dated October 10, 2009 12:02 AM:

    Debatable, but more important, circumcision - of boys and girls - is unique because it involves the amputation of healthy tissue, sexual tissue

    One could describe plenty of other surgeries in such a way.

    from non-consenting minors

    As any surgery can be.

    and it is done for an astonishing variety of incoherent and shifting reasons outside the realm of religious obligation

    I think you're asserting your own questionable views as fact now, John.

    And, assuming that what you say is even correct, I find it very interesting that you and I have chosen such different properties. The property of circumcision that I identified is the consequence of the surgery itself: in other words an inherent quality of circumcision. But, for the most part, what you chose to identify is the way in which circumcision is performed in some cultural contexts: the age at which it is performed and the reasons for it.

    One cannot really keep a straight face when claiming there is a medical reason, given the hilarious list given by the serious medical profession over the last 100 years. Not to mention the howler from PD that it might prevent the flu!

    You're not making any sense, John. It's irrational to assume that there is a single reason why all circumcisions are performed. Also, why would a "hilarious list" invalidate any one reason? Doesn't make sense.

    Again, if people insisted on amputating lips from boys for cultural reasons, eventually a medical study - done by men without their lips, or their wives - would show some net benefit, like elimination of lip cancer and reduction of sexually transmitted diseases. Get out the knives, Jake and PD?

    What you're describing might be a benefit, but not necessarily a net benefit. For there to be a net benefit, there would have to be a benefit (or benefits) significant enough to cancel out the sum of the risks and harms. Finding a benefit is easy, and yes, if you study enough possibilities you'll probably find one. Finding a net benefit is not so easy.

    I could agree with a lot of what Jake says if it were constrained to consenting adults. Our lives are not lived in the realm of statistics. There was no net benefit to the damage done to me. I'm willing to stick my neck out to end a practice that badly hurt me, and no doubt has maimed tens of thousands of men in the U.S, just a tiny fraction of a percent of circumcised men, but nevertheless a lot of people. Jake has not explained his motivation for defending neonatal circumcision, and how it might relate to his circumcision. I'd like to hear it.

    I'm sure you would, but I'm not the subject of this discussion. Circumcision is. I'd like to stick to the subject.

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  20. It was thought until recently it was sensible to remove the appendix, now there is research to suggest it has a purpose.

    Either "Intelligent Design" Christian or Evolutionist, surely foreskins have evolved/ are there for a reason? I wonder why? Have you?

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  21. I just found this (blog?) and I've read enough to realize that I must say I do not agree that circumcision is comparable to tattooing.
    If circumcision became mandatory where I live-I would be outraged. I and many other men would probably protest such a law by cutting off the rest of our penis! If circumcision becomes mandatory the ladies might very well find a shortage of penis toteing men available. Hmmm,,,
    I want to tell the ladies that detest foreskin on a penis, "If you detest the foreskin on my penis, you are not getting any of my penis and I sure wouldn't want my penis anymore either.

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  22. After reading these arguments.. I think the idea that circumcision should be mandatory is totally ludicrous. The foreskin exists for a reason, to protect the head of the penis... which is very sensitive and can suffer nerve ending damage with constant exposure.. i.e.... sexual pleasure risks being reduced!

    As for the hygiene/disease thing.... keeping it clean never hurt anyone.

    And to let you in on a secret, as a woman.. I prefer a penis with a foreskin. In fact, many women do, based on sexual satisfaction.

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