Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery

Overview

How has a medical practice that carries substantial risk to the patient and offers very little actual benefit become so widely accepted by parents and fiercely advocated by the medical community? Historian of medicine David Gollaher tells the strange history of medicine's oldest enigma and most persistent ritual in Circumcision. From the extraordinarily painful initiation rite of the ancient Egyptians, through the Hebrew purification ritual, through circumcision's use by the rising medical community in the ...

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Overview

How has a medical practice that carries substantial risk to the patient and offers very little actual benefit become so widely accepted by parents and fiercely advocated by the medical community? Historian of medicine David Gollaher tells the strange history of medicine's oldest enigma and most persistent ritual in Circumcision. From the extraordinarily painful initiation rite of the ancient Egyptians, through the Hebrew purification ritual, through circumcision's use by the rising medical community in the nineteenth century as prevention for ailments ranging from bedwetting to paralysis, the great mystery has been the persistence of the practice through vastly different social contexts.

"...written by a medical historian, relates the strange story of an archaic ritual, once used to initiate boys into the company of men, that was captured by the medical profession & transformed into a symbol of superior health."

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Editorial Reviews

Mirabella
David L. Gollaher's judicious and anatomically unflinching study seems likely to prompt considerable debate-not to mention a lot of crossed legs.
Playboy
David Gollaher skillfully argues that the operation violates the most sacred tenet of the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
[A] fascinating new book.. in which Gollaher sets out to make "the strange familiar," but also "the familiar strange."
The New York Times
Talk
The first major history of Mittel Europa's first city written since the fall of the Wall. . .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465026531
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,197,182
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Gollaher is President and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute and the author of Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix. He lives in San Diego, California.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2002

    Excellent!! Very detailed and complete.

    This book is truely the most complete resource on circumcision I have read so far. Gollaher takes a subject that can seem complicated and lays out the facts using plain language. He manages to bring the true colors of the circumcision business into the spotlight without using scare tactics. I cannot praise this book enough! Please read if you want to learn the truth about circumcision (hint: its NOT just a snip!)and its potential reprocussions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2000

    Informative, Balanced, Intellectual

    Dr. Gollaher has written the most scholarly book about circumcision since the ground breaking work of Edward Wallerstein over two decades ago. The text covers the historical, sociological and psychological as well as medical aspects of this bizarre genital cutting. Why for example is the United States the only industrialized Nation to continue this surgery upon infant boys, while Britain, Canada and all of Europe either never introduced circumcision as a non-medical ritual. This book is balanced and documented. It covers even the personalities in the grass roots of the pro/con circumcision political in and out fighting, which the average American is totally unaware of. Indeed, it brings into question the AAP's politics and their inability to firmly tell parents circumcision for a non-existant medical problem is unwarranted. The doctors themselves have their own personal agendas and skewed perspectives in interpreting the available medical literature. It does not however say that 250 million dollars in healthcare dollars are spent each year to trim foreskins when such dollars in a tight healthcare budget could be used to help children in so many more useful ways. This book cites all and every medical argument for circumcision and then cooly analyzes the rationality of each. Even die hard Mr. Circumcision himself, Edgar Schoen is mentioned and adds a colorful insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes when doctors fight about circumcion's value. A great book every interested person and especially prospective parent should read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2000

    Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery

    Gollaher has taken on a truly complicated subject, one that involves religious studies, anthropology, psychology, and the history of science and medicine. Somehow he manages to compress immense amounts of research in these different fields into a very clear, and extremely interesting, narrative. The result is fascinating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2000

    Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery

    This book has so many interesting aspects that it's hard to do it justice in a brief review. For my money, though, the chapter on how circumcision entered modern Anglo-American medicine -- how it was transformed from a Jewish ritual into a routine medical procedure deemed suitable for all boys -- is the highlight. By explaining the intellectual and cultural context of medicine in the 1870s, Gollaher explains why circumcision came to seem so reasonable (and so powerful). He clearly opposes routine circumcision, though not in a tendentious way. His opinion seems to derive simply from the cumulative weight of available evidence. I am the mother of two boys who were circumcised in the hospital. I had no real concept of what was done to them. The pediatrician didn't sell the procedure very hard, but he did say that most parents had it done and that he didn't see much harm in it. After reading 'Circumcision,' I wish my husband and I had given it more thought. We probably would have made a different decision.

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