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It is argued by opponents of circumcision that the male himself should be allowed to make the decision about whether he does or does not want to be circumcised. However, there are problems with this argument, not the least of which is the fact that the greatest benefits accrue the earlier in life the procedure is performed. If left till later ages the individual has already been exposed to the risk of urinary tract infections, the physical problems, and carries a residual risk, albeit reduced compared with no circumcision, of penile cancer and possibly HIV infection. Moreover, it would take a very `street-wise', outgoing, adolescent male to make this decision and undertake the process of ensuring that it was done. Most males in the late teens and 20s, not to mention many men of any age, are reticent to confront such issues, even if they hold private convictions and preferences about wanting to be rid of the foreskin from their penis. Moreover, despite having problems with this part of their anatomy, many will suffer in silence rather than seek medical advice or treatment. Thus to argue that circumcision be delayed until the male can make his own decision is specious. By the teen or later years the procedure is no longer as fast, simple, cheap or as pain-free, and a general, as opposed to a local, anesthetic is usually employed.
Really though parental responsibility must over-ride arguments based on 'the rights of the child'. Think what would happen if we allowed children to reach the age of legal consent in relation to, for example, immunization, whether they should or should not be educated, or even daily routines such as tooth-brushing, the type of food consumed, amount they exercise, responsible behavior, respect for others, etc. A period of great benefit would have been lost, to the potential detriment of the person concerned. In fact of all the many decisions a parent or legal guardian must make for their growing child over the years until they are legally considered adults, there are many that will likely have a more profound effect on them than the presence or absence of a foreskin . Parents have the legal right to authorize surgical procedures in the best interests of their children [12, 102, 366]. For them to make this decision medical practitioners are obliged to disclose to them fully and objectively ALL information relating to circumcision. This includes benefits and risks, prognosis and alternative methods. Unfortunately, in a recent survey in California 40% of parents believed they had not been provided with enough information . Parents of those children who were left uncircumcised said that no medical provider discussed circumcision with them, as opposed to 15% of parents of children who were circumcised. Twice as many parents (27% of uncircumcised vs 14% of circumcised boys) were unhappy with their initial decision, i.e., twice as many in retrospect would have wanted their child to have been circumcised had they known more.