Just when I had almost given up on NBC’s medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, for statements she has made in blind support of routine infant circumcision, she came out with a heartening remark today in a conversation with NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. They were discussing how the medical world is taking on cancer from new directions and having some restraint in conventional treatments and surgeries. She complained of the waste of health dollars and hurting people in the process.

Snyderman’s closing comments — broad and wide — could have applied to the repulsive practice of circumcision. Here is my letter to further her recovery to sanity about the rights of defenseless infants and minors:

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, M.D.
Chief Medical Editor
NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York NY 10112

RE: Saving medical dollars and your bizarre support of routine infant circumcision.

I have followed your reporting for many years. You are bright, direct and informed. However, I have long resented and been troubled by your odd support of the perverse practice of routine infant circumcision of males. I would have thought you believed in following the Hippocratic Oath: First, Do No Harm. For more than 40 years, I have worked with the medical community and people across the world in successfully lowering the rate of circumcision in this country. Here in Arizona, the rate is said to be just 20 percent today, still too high. We have been able to get Medicaid for circumcisions ended in 18 states where it’s been determined that such cosmetic surgery cannot be justified and where some health administrators acknowledge that the foreskin belongs where God/nature put it. Circumcision of minors against their will and changing their bodies’ structure and sexual mechanics are medically unethical. It only survives in America because of the tyranny of tradition and a corporate medical world that has hoodwinked the public that it is part of the birth process — ensuring billions of dollars to them. Not to mention that the purloined foreskins are sold to companies for artificial skin production and skin creams that Oprah Winfrey peddles. Didn’t the Nazis harvest body parts for commercial uses? Hmmm.

I was delighted and astonished tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams when you had a conversation with Brian regarding the paradigm shift in approaching cancers. At the close of that discussion, you said, “…..If you start MRI scanning everybody, you are going to find things that don’t look normal. Does that mean then we start, then, taking things out in treating people? The answer is no. We know we waste one-third of our medical expenditures on things that aren’t worth chasing or aren’t worth treating. And you know what? We hurt people in the process. The smarter we make this, the better we make it.”

Dr. Nancy, what wisdom flowed at that moment from your mouth! Did you hear me shouting praises to you in Arizona? Yes, routine infant circumcision IS a huge waste of medical dollars. Yes, it is NOT wise medicine to be cutting off healthy body parts and structures that have worked just fine for males (and mammals) for millions of years. And, YES, we should not HURT people in the process.

Do you know that circumcision imposed on males as babies and children is resented? Do you know there is a sense of betrayal, a sense of violation, a sense of intrusion? Do you realize there is a double standard in America where females are protected by federal law from genital mutilation (since 1996) while males are unprotected? Doesn’t the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution say something about “equal protection under the law.”

We are quite aware that pediatricians, obstetricians, hospitals and others in the medical community derive fairly easy money — $200 to $1,000 — for a circumcision that takes 10-15 minutes. So many circumcisers openly brag about how many foreskins they’ve cut in a career — and in a week — and the payoff is handsome. On the other hands, we are so proud of the nurses who have had the courage to balk at participation in genital cutting of helpless babies in hospitals and clinics. The sense of humanity and decency trumped the commands to stick it out and watch screaming, traumatized male babies endure the excruciating pain — the first violence visited on them in their young lifetime.

Dr. Nancy, heed your words tonight. Call for an end to the WASTED medical expenditures. Help America join Europe and the rest of the developed world in putting routine infant circumcision on the dung heap of cruel, bizarre, phony medicine. As the father of an intact son and two intact grandsons, I take pride that we had the wisdom to honor and respect our offspring’s universal human right to be safe and secure in their own bodies. Sadly, there is so little research done on the intricacies and nature of the foreskin, especially about the role it plays in the mechanics of sex and as a protective hood. Doctors surely are given little training. Misinformed parents have been duped with nonsense about difficulties of keeping clean, or what “looks better” or who might get teased or that sons and daddies need to look alike. How does any of that tripe have traction? Then there is the sixth-grade science in Africa that seeks to prove that foreskins lead to HIV/AIDS — and that it can be applied to the U.S. Yet, in America where circumcision has been so pervasive, how do you explain we have far higher rates of HIV/AIDS than Europe where circumcision is relatively rare and largely confined to Jews and Muslims? It’s obscene that Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and circumcision exporters are exploiting and bribing naive, intimidated Africans into being cut in some “enlightened,” westernized medical scheme.

You command a massive audience at NBC. You are intelligent. The powerful international movement to bring an end to the sexual assault of circumcision is gaining momentum. America is the paradox in a planet that generally respects the sovereignty of the body. If more insurance companies got on board and forced parents to pay the piper, the rate of circumcision would fall further.

If there wasn’t circumcision, but some brute came along today and suggested parents have part of their children’s penises sliced off, the authorities would show up and take that goon away. Such child abuse would not be permitted.

Dr. Nancy, we are a better people. Look at human rights, medical ethics and the right for any male or female to be safe to grow up whole and complete and uncompromised by the tyranny of bad medical practice.

We ask that you advocate truly for what you said tonight: Fewer wasted medical dollars in America, fewer medical procedures that serve no purpose, and medical procedures that “don’t hurt people in the process.” It translates to an end to the cruel rip-off that is circumcision.

See intactamerica.org; or nocirc.org; or cirp.org; or Attorneys for the Rights of the Child – arclaw.org.

I worked 40 years in daily newspapers and I know that the media can be a powerful force for change that is good. Civilization, after all, is just a slow process of learning to be kind. Be part of civilizing this patch of God’s planet, Dr. Nancy. Routine infant circumcision does NOT belong in a good world.


Lawn Griffiths