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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Jay P. Goldsmith, MD (Tulane University School of Medicine)
Description: This compilation of papers presented at the Eighth International Symposium on Circumcision and Human Rights held in Padua, Italy, is intended to make the case against male and female circumcision.
Purpose: The editor's purpose, as stated in the preface, is to rid the world of circumcision in the next generation. The papers discuss the social, political, economic, religious, psychological, and legal aspects of this procedure. Very little medicine or science is included, except to say that such data is "under the control of the circumcisers."
Audience: It is difficult to determine exactly for whom this book is written. It is not scientific and could be easily read by interested lay people. It is doubtful that pediatricians, obstetricians, or urologists would read this book unless they wanted to learn about this movement. The authors are perhaps well known in this movement, but only two of the 38 contributors are physicians.
Features: The papers cover mostly the psychosocial and sexual aspects of both male and female circumcision. Many of the contributors are Italian, and much of the book deals with aspects of this procedure in Italy. American aspects of this issue include discussions on human rights (comparing circumcision to slavery), strategies for litigation, and a review of Medicaid funding by state for this procedure. The book dismisses the medical and scientific aspects of the procedure in one paragraph without reviewing the data. The index is inadequate to find specific references to such topics as genital cancer.
Assessment: In the spirit of full disclosure, I must state that I would be considered by these authors to be a member of "the circumcision industry." Nevertheless, this is a book with an agenda. The presentations are heavily weighted toward the theme of eradicating circumcision in the world. Some of the papers are interesting and the historical and religious roots of the procedure are well covered. However, comparing circumcision to slavery and using amendments to the U.S. Constitution to demonstrate circumcision as a violation of human rights is more emotion than science.