Circumcision legal commentary

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Circumcision legal commentary has been published for about the last fifty years in several nations by different authors who have a variety of views concerning non-therapeutic involuntary circumcision of male children. The intent of this page is to collect such circumcision legal commentary in the English language as can be found online and link to it. Material will be arranged in approximate chronological order of publication.

Work in progress: The following information does not claim to be complete. More content will be added gradually.


T. L. Fisher (1966), an officer of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, discussed the legal dangers of using outmoded treatment. This is, of course, relevant to the outmoded practice of circumcision of male children.

Morse (1968) discussed ritual circumcision in hospitals under the law of New York.

Roddey (1971) discussed legal issues that can arise from the performance of then very common infant non-therapeutic circumcision.

Canadian medical ethicist Margaret Somerville (1980) published a commentary on the distinctions between therapeutic medical procedures and non-therapeutic medical procedures. Since the circumcision of male infants is a non-therapeutic procedure, her remarks are relevant here.

Margaret Somerville (1981) discusses the difference between therapeutic and non-therapeutic medical procedures.

American William E. Brigman (1985) used new medical evidence to argue that circumcision is child abuse, and discussed possible legal remedies. Recent medical articles have documented the actual injury of circumcision, to make it possible for an attorney to win damages for wrongful circumcision, he said. Brigman suggested civil rights class action suits against hospitals.

Sebastian Poulter (1986) argued that parents may authorise the non-therapeutic circumcision of a male minor under English law. Later British court decisions call his comments into question.

Bonner & Kinane (1989) discussed the legal and constitutional issues of non-therapeutic male circumcision under United States and California law.

Lynn E. Lebit (1992) discusses issues with the substituted judgment doctrine.

The Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) (1993) considered possible reforms to the law of the state of Queensland, Australia, however no action has been taken after nearly 30 years.

James G. Dwyer (1994) discussed the impact of parents' religion on children's welfare.

David J. Llewellyn (1995) discusses legal remedies when hospitals or doctors injure patients by circumcision.

Australian professor of law Neville Turner (1996) points out that circumcised boys may sue for damages.

David Richards (1996) argues that the best way to reduce the incidence of circumcision is to remove it from the medical benefits schedule.

Christopher Price, M.A. (Oxon) (1996) briefed the Law Commission of England and Wales on issues of male circumcision.

Abbie J. Chessler (1997) provides a review of legal issues of male and female non-therapeutic circumcision.

Jacqueline Smith (1998), of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, has examined non-therapeutic circumcision of male children in the light of international human rights law.

  • REFbook Smith, Jacqueline (1998): Male Circumcision and the Rights of the Child. Work: To Baehr in Our Minds: Essays in Human Rights from the Heart of the Netherlands. Mielle Bulterman, Aart Hendriks and Jacqueline Smith (Eds.) (ed.). Edition: SIM-21. pp. 465-98. Utrecht: Netherlands Institute of Human Rights. Retrieved 8 May 2020.

Povenmire (1998-9) discussed the lawfulness of consent for non-therapeutic circumcision of minor boys in the United States.

The late British solicitor Christopher P Price (1999) elucidated the difference between therapeutic and non-therapeutic procedures and discussed the state of British law relating to non-therapeutic circumcision of male children.

Van Howe, Svoboda, Dywer, & Price (1999), a medico-legal team discuss the legal issues of non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.

Boyle, et al. (2000) argue strongly, that in common law jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States, parents lack the capacity to consent to non-therapeutic circumcision, so it constitutes criminal assault, whenever it is performed.

Dr. Arif Bhimji {2000) argues that non-therapeutic circumcision of boys in Canada violates the rights protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Giannetti (2000) argues that scientific misconduct in the American Academy of Pediatrics circumcision policy statements should expose the AAP to trade association liability.

Svoboda, Van Howe & Dwyer (2000) discuss legal issues inherent with consent for non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.

Peter W. Edge (2000) discussed the impact of the Human Rights Act (1998) on the practice of non-therapeutic circumcision of male children in the United Kingdom.

J. Steven Svoboda (2001) discussed the limits of the law.

Geoffrey P. Miller (2002) discussed the impact of American culture on the law of circumcision.

Suzanne Bouclin (2005) examined the legal status of non-therapeutic circumcision in Canada.

Fox & Thomson (2005) criticise the British Medical Association guidance to doctors.

Doctors Opposing Circumcision included this commentary on the law of circumcision of boys in their June 2008 Genital Integrity Statement. It has since been later amended by another party to include a reference to Adler (2013) that was not available at the time of writing.

Professor Putzke (2008) points out that there is a criminal relevance of circumcising boys.

David Llewellyn (2011) discussed strategies for litigation.

Professor Peter W. Adler, J. D., (2011) argues that it is unlawful for United States Medicaid to pay for non-therapeutic circumcision.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (2012) has made recommendations for reforms of Tasmanian law relating to non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors.

Professor Peter W. Adler, J.D., (2013) argues that non-therapeutic circumcision of boys is unlawful.

Professor Paul McLaughlin (2016) discusses conflicts between non-therapeutic child circumcision practice and the international law of human rights.

Professors Marie Fox and Michael Thomson discussed Bodily Integrity, Embodiment and the Regulation of Parental Choice.

Professor Kai Möller discussed the legality of male and female circumcision in the light of the case of Re B and G (children) (No 2) [2015] EWFC 3.


The two briefs indexed here were filed by Doctors Opposing Circumcision with the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of Boldt v. Boldt, where they proved instrumental in changing the direction of that case. They have an excellent summary of American Constitutional law relevant to the non-therapeutic circumcision of male children.

Video presentation

London barrister James Chegwidden discusses the gradual progress of the English courts toward recognition of genital autonomy for boys.

See also

External links

This index at ARC includes papers on medical ethics.

Doctors Opposing Circumcision also maintains a list of legal commentaries.

For those who read the German language, Prof. Dr. Holm Putzke, LL. M., maintains a list of commentaries in German regarding religious (non-therapeutic) circumcision on his website: