May 22, 1986
I would like to ask the American Medical Association a question -- and I would appreciate a direct, complete answer.
Keeping in mind...
that regardless what they might indicate in casual conversation, most men who have had the experience of having a foreskin -- and many men who haven't -- regard foreskin amputation (circumcision), even when justified medically, as a crippling, disfiguring mutilation;
that the only reason most males in the United States today lack the foreskin most males in the rest of the world take for granted is that their foreskins were cut off when they were babies, when they couldn't protect themselves from the circumcisers who circumcised them -- in other words, because their foreskins were cut off by force;
that cutting off a baby's foreskin affords him no proven benefits, but severs him from a means of perceiving, experiencing and enjoying his existence, and subjects him to many known physical and psychological risks, including death -- and including the certainty, assuming he lives, of going through life with as much as half or more of the natural surface of his penis missing;
that regardless how harmless or even beneficial such an act might seem to the person who commits it, cutting healthy, sensitive, normally functioning tissue -- living flesh -- an organ of perception -- from someone else's body without his consent, is partial murder;
that consent given by a person of good will to commit such an act against a baby can never be -- and never has been -- informed;
that the only informed choice possible for a person of good will to make about the foreskin of a baby is the choice that the baby himself, when old enough to understand what his foreskin is and what would have been done to it if he had been circumcised, is most likely to be glad was made for him;
that that choice, beyond any reasonable doubt, is to leave his foreskin intact;
and keeping in mind that three out of four male babies in this country -- more than a million a year -- begin life by having their foreskins cut off, please tell me:
Such a statement -- and such a law -- are long overdue.
[signed] John A. Erickson
American Medical Association: Officers, Trustees, Executive Board
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Officers, District Chairmen
American Academy of Pediatrics: Officers, Executive Board Latin American District Chairmen
[I sent a copy of the letter above to Thomas S. Szasz, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at State University of New York, Syracuse, author of many books, including The Manufacture of Madness and The Myth of Mental Illness, and keynote speaker at the Third International Symposium on Circumcision (University of Maryland, 1994). A few days later I received the following letter from Dr. Szasz, quoted here with his permission: