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.
REFjournal Fisher TL. Outmoded Treatment. Can Med Assoc J. 17 September 1966; 95(12): 630. PMID. PMC. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • Morse (1968) discussed ritual circumcision in hospitals under the law of New York.
REFjournal Morse HW. Ritual Circumcision. JAMA. 1968; 203(12): 257-8. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • Roddey (1971) discussed legal issues that can arise from the performance of then very common infant non-therapeutic circumcision.
REFjournal Roddey AR. Law & Medicine: Circumcision. JAMA. 4 October 1971; 218(1): 149-50. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • 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.
REFjournal Somerville M. Medical Interventions and the Criminal Law. McGill Law Journal. 1980; 26(82): 82-96. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • Margaret Somerville (1981) discusses the difference between therapeutic and non-therapeutic medical procedures.
REFjournal Somerville M. Therapeutic and non-therapeutic medical procedures--what are the distinctions?. Health law in Canada. 31 December 1980; 2(4): 85-90. PMID. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • 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.
REFjournal Brigman WE. Circumcision as Child Abuse: The Legal and Constitutional Issues. J Fam Law. 1985; 23(3): 337. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • 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.
REFbook Poulter S (1986): English Criminal Law and Ethnic Minority Customs. ISBN 00113259765. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • Bonner & Kinane (1989) discussed the legal and constitutional issues of non-therapeutic male circumcision under United States and California law.
REFjournal Bonner C, Kinane M. The Legal and Constitutional Issues. The Truth Seeker. July 1989; Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • Lynn E. Lebit (1992) discusses issues with the substituted judgment doctrine.
REFjournal Lebit LE. Compelled Medical Procedures Involving Minors and Incompetents and Misapplication of the Substituted Judgment Doctrine. Journal of Law and Medicine. 1992; 7: 107. PMID. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • 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.
REFdocument Circumcision of Male Infants Research Paper, Queensland Law Reform Commission. (1993). Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • James G. Dwyer (1994) discussed the impact of parents' religion on children's welfare.
REFjournal Dwyer JG. Parents' Religion and Children's Welfare: Debunking the Doctrine of Parents' Rights. California L. Rev.. December 1994; 82(6): 1371. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • David J. Llewellyn (1995) discusses legal remedies when hospitals or doctors injure patients by circumcision.
REFjournal Llewellyn DJ. Legal remedies for penile torts. The Compleat Mother. 1995; 40(Winter): 16. Retrieved 13 May 2020.


  • Australian professor of law Neville Turner (1996) points out that circumcised boys may sue for damages.
REFjournal Turner JN. Circumcised boys may sue. Health Law Update. 23 February 1996; 1(4): 1-2. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
REFjournal Richards D. Male Circumcision: Medical or Ritual?. J Law Medicine. May 1996; 3(4): 371-6. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
REFdocument Price, Christopher: Male Circumcision: A Legal Affront. (December 1996). Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  • James G. Dwyer discussed religious exemptions as a denial of equal protection.
REFdocument Dwyer, James G.: The Children We Abandon: Religious Exemptions to Child Welfare and Education Law as Denials of Equal Protection to Children of Religious Objectors PDF, North Carolina Law Review. (1996). Retrieved 12 January 2021.


  • Abbie J. Chessler (1997) provides a review of legal issues of male and female non-therapeutic circumcision.
REFjournal Chessler A. Justifying the Unjustifable: Rite v. Wrong. Buffalo L. Rev. 1997; 45: 555. Retrieved 10 May 2020.


REFbook Smith J (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.). Edition: SIM-21. Utrecht: Netherlands Institute of Human Rights. Pp. 465-98. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  • Povenmire (1998-9) discussed the lawfulness of consent for non-therapeutic circumcision of minor boys in the United States.
REFjournal Povenmire R. Do Parents Have the Legal Authority to Consent to the Surgical Amputation of Normal, Healthy Tissue From Their Infant Children?: The Practice of Circumcision in the United States.. Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law. 1998; 7: 87. Retrieved 9 May 2020.


  • 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.
REFbook Price CP (1999): Male Non-therapeutic circumcision: The Legal and Ethical Issues. Work: Male and Female Circumcision, Medical, Legal, and Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Practice. Denniston GC, Hodges FM and Milos MF eds. (ed.). New York: New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Pp. 425-54. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  • Van Howe, Svoboda, Dywer, & Price (1999), a medico-legal team discuss the legal issues of non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.
REFjournal Van Howe RS, Svoboda JS, Dwyer JG, Price CP. Involuntary circumcision: the legal issues. BJU Int. January 1999; 83 Supplement 1: 63-73. PMID. DOI. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  • Shea Lita Bond (1999) argues that circumcision violates the right to equal protection of the law.
REFjournal Bond SL. Female Circumcision Laws and the Equal Protection Clause. John Marshall Law Review. December 1999; 32(353)


  • 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.
REFjournal Boyle GJ, Svoboda JS, Price CP, Turner N. Circumcision of Healthy Boys: Criminal Assault?. J Law Med. 1 January 2000; 7: 301-310. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  • Dr. Arif Bhimji {2000) argues that non-therapeutic circumcision of boys in Canada violates the rights protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
REFjournal Bhimji A. Infant Male Circumcision: A violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Health Care Law (Toronto). January 2000; Retrieved 8 May 2020.

“Just Say No” if an “Informed” Patient Demands Services that Are Not Medically Indicated]. Seton Hall. 4 June 2000; Retrieved 3 September 2021.

  • Giannetti (2000) argues that scientific misconduct in the American Academy of Pediatrics circumcision policy statements should expose the AAP to trade association liability.
REFjournal Giannetti M. Circumcision and the American Academy of Pediatrics: Should Scientific Misconduct Result in Trade Association Liability. Iowa Law Rev. 2000; 85(4): 1507-68. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  • Svoboda, Van Howe & Dwyer (2000) discuss legal issues inherent with consent for non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.
REFjournal Svoboda JS, Van Howe RS, Dwyer JG. Informed Consent for Neonatal Circumcision: An Ethical and Legal Conundrum. J Contemporary Health Law Policy. September 2000; 17(1): 61-133. PMID. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  • 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.
REFjournal Edge PW. Male circumcision after the human rights act 1998. J Civil Liberties. 2000; 5: 320. Retrieved 10 May 2020.


  • J. Steven Svoboda (2001) discussed the limits of the law.
REFbook Svoboda JS (2001): Limits of the law: Comparitive analysis of legal and extralegal methods.. Work: Understanding Circumcision: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to a Multi-Dimensional Problem. George C. Denniston, Frederick M. Hodges, and Marilyn Fayre Milos (ed.). Springer. Pp. 297-365. ISBN 978-1-4419-3375-1.. Retrieved 9 August 2020.


  • Geoffrey P. Miller (2002) discussed the impact of American culture on the law of circumcision.
REFjournal Miller GP. Circumcision: Cultural-Legal Analysis. Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law.. March 2002; 9: 497-585. Retrieved 29 July 2020.


  • Suzanne Bouclin (2005) examined the legal status of non-therapeutic circumcision in Canada.
REFjournal Bouclin, Suzanne. An examination of legal and ethical issues surrounding male circumcision: the Canadian context. Int J Mens Health. September 2005; 4(3): 205-22. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  • Fox & Thomson (2005) criticise the British Medical Association guidance to doctors.
REFjournal Fox M, Thomson M. A covenant with the status quo? Male circumcision and the new BMA guidance to doctors. J Med Ethics. 2005; 31(8): 463-9. PMID. PMC. DOI. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  • Fox & Thomson (2005) discuss circumcision law.
REFjournal Fox M, Thomson M. Short changed? The law and ethics of male circumcision.. International Journal of Children's Rights. 2005; 13: 161-181. Retrieved 11 June 2021.


  • Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.) 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.
REFbook Hill G (2008): Ch. 10: American Law and the Circumcision of Children. Work: Genital Integrity Policy. Seattle: Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.). Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  • Professor Putzke (2008) points out that there is a criminal relevance of circumcising boys.
REFdocument Putzke, Holm: Criminal Relevance of Circumcising Boys, A Contribution to the Limitation of Consent in Cases of Care for the Person of the Child PDF. (2008). Retrieved 8 May 2020.



  • David Llewellyn (2011) discussed strategies for litigation.
REFweb Llewellyn, David (2011). Strategies for Litigation, Springer. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  • Professor Peter W. Adler, J. D., (2011) argues that it is unlawful for United States Medicaid to pay for non-therapeutic circumcision.
REFjournal Adler PW. It is lawful to use Medicaid to pay for circumcision?. Journal of Law and Medicine. 2011; 19: 335-353. Retrieved 8 May 2020.


  • The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (2012) has made recommendations for reforms of Tasmanian law relating to non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors.
REFdocument Marshall, Warwick: Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision PDF, Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (Hobart). (August 2012). Retrieved 9 May 2020.


  • Professor Peter W. Adler, J.D.[a 2], (2013) argues that non-therapeutic circumcision of boys is unlawful.
REFjournal Adler PW. Is circumcision legal?. Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest. 2013; 16(3): 439-86. Retrieved 8 May 2020.



  • Professor Paul McLaughlin (2016) discusses conflicts between non-therapeutic child circumcision practice and the international law of human rights.
REFjournal McLaughlin Jr PJ. Legal and Medical Ethical Entanglements of Infant Male Circumcision and International Law. Journal of Medical Law and Ethics. April 2016; 4(1): 23-38. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  • Svoboda, Adler, and Van Howe point out that physicians have a legal duty to protect children from unnecessary interventions. They suggest that under existing United States law and international human rights declarations as well, circumcision already violates boys´ absolute rights to equal protection, bodily integrity, autonomy, and freedom to choose their own religion.
REFjournal Svoboda JS, Adler PW, Van Howe RS. Circumcision is Unethical and Unlawful PDF. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 2016; 44: 263-282. DOI. Retrieved 19 June 2021.


  • Earp, Hendry, and Thomson (2017) discuss the case of B & G (2015).
REFjournal Earp B, Hendry J, Thomson M. Reason and paradox in medical and family law: Shaping children's bodies. Medical Law Review. 2017; DOI. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  • Professors Marie Fox and Michael Thomson discussed Bodily Integrity, Embodiment and the Regulation of Parental Choice.
REFjournal Fox M, Thomson M. Bodily Integrity, Embodiment and the Regulation of Parental Choice. Journal of Law and Society. 2017; 44(4): 501-31. Retrieved 8 September 2020.


REFjournal Möller K. Male and Female Genital Cutting: Between the Best Interest of the Child and Genital Mutilation. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. 26 June 2020; DOI. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  • Adler, Van Howe, Wisdom & Daase (2020) examined male non-therapeutic circumcision as fraud.
REFjournal Adler PW, Van Howe RS, Wisdom T, Daase F. Is circumcision a fraud?. Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. November 2020; 30(1): 45-107.


The two briefs indexed here were filed by Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.) 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 (D.O.C.) 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:


  1. REFweb Master of Arts, Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  2. REFweb Juris Doctor, Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 October 2021. (Also known as Doctor of Law or Doctor of Jurisprudence.)