Academic: Doctors who circumcise should be struck off

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Critics have rounded on an academic who has warned that doctors could be guilty of negligence and be breaking the Human Rights Act for performing circumcisions for anything other than medical reasons.

Dr David Shaw, an expert in medical ethics at Glasgow University, called for the General Medical Council (GMC) and the British Medical Association (BMA) to tighten up the advice they give doctors about circumcision.

He argued that the BMA had admitted openly that non-therapeutic circumcision “may be against the law” and that its guidance said that doctors who perform circumcision may be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

On the GMC guidelines, he wrote that while Jews and Muslims “might well regard a restriction on circumcision as a breach of human rights...” it was unlikely there was a “fundamental human right to be circumcised”.

But the BMA said Dr Shaw had got it wrong. A BMA spokeswoman said: “We do not believe that performing a circumcision for non-therapeutic reasons is contrary to the Human Rights Act. Nor do we believe doctors who carry it out may be acting illegally.

“Dr Shaw did not check with us first. It will now be up to our ethics department to contact him about this.”

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “Dr Shaw’s view of the ethics of brit milah is flawed.

“His definition of ‘best interests’ omits the fundamental consideration of a child’s religious or cultural wellbeing.

“Dr Shaw holds a minority view and the Jewish community should not allow itself to be intimidated by it.”

Last updated: 5:00pm, December 3 2009