Peter W. Adler

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Peter Adler 2021

Peter W. Adler, J.D.[a 1], M.A.[a 2], from Massachusetts, USA, is a law professor, legal scholar, and intactivist who has published numerous articles about circumcision and the law, three of which laid the groundwork for lawsuits in the U.S.

Adler has a BA[a 3] in Philosophy from Dartmouth College (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa), an M.A.[a 2] in Philosophy and Ethics from Cambridge (with Honours), and a J.D.[a 1] from the University of Virginia School of Law (Law Review).

Adler is a professor of International Law, Business Law, and International Business at the University of Massachusetts.[1] He won an award in 2019 for excellence in teaching. He served as Legal Advisor to Attorneys for the Rights of the Child from 2011-2018.

Medicaid article and lawsuit

In 2011, Adler published, “Is it lawful to use Medicaid to pay for circumcision?” in the Journal of Law and Medicine.

In July 2020, Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.[a 4], and other Massachusetts taxpayers filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court[2] based on the article alleging that it is unlawful for the Massachusetts Medicaid agency MassHealth to use Medicaid to pay for non-therapeutic circumcision. MassHealth moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Superior Court ruled in May 2021 that the taxpayer plaintiffs have the right to proceed with their claims that in funding non-therapeutic circumcisions, MassHealth is violating Massachusetts law. The judge reported the case to the Massachusetts Appeals Court for review, and the case is on appeal.

Legality article and lawsuit

In 2012, Adler published “Is Circumcision Legal?” in the Virginia Journal of Law and Public Policy[3], arguing that under U.S. law, as a court had ruled in a case in Cologne, Germany earlier that year, it is assault and a crime for a physician to circumcise a boy for religious reasons, as it violates the child’s right to bodily integrity and self-determination, and the child’s rights supersede the parents’ religious and other rights. The article was used and cited in a federal lawsuit in 2015 in Florida in a “spite circumcision” case that gained national attention, but the lawyer for the plaintiff dropped the suit. The mother, Heather Hironimus, wanted to protect her son from circumcision, while the estranged father was intent on having him circumcised in accordance with their separation agreement. A judge in state court put the mother in jail until she gave permission for the circumcision. A physician circumcised the young boy against his wishes and over the objection of the mother[4] using a false diagnosis of phimosis or a tight foreskin.

Fraud article and lawsuit

In 1999, the legal scholar Matthew Giannetti had published an article in the Iowa Law Review arguing that the 1989 and 1999 circumcision guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) were biased, scientifically indefensible, negligent, and possibly fraudulent[5].

In 2012, the AAP made even more extravagant claims that legal scholars[6] and medical experts and ethicists[7] in the United States[8] and Europe[9] criticized.

On July 24, 2014, at the Genital Autonomy America Symposium in Boulder, Colorado, Adler gave a presentation asking "Is the Circumcision of Children a Fraud?". After the talk, Robert Van Howe, M.D.[a 5], suggested that they publish an article based on it as a sequel to Giannetti’s article.

In November 2020, Adler, Van Howe, Travis Wisdom, and Felix Daase published “Is Circumcision a Fraud?” in the Cornell Journal of Law and Policy[10]. They argued that circumcision is a complex multibillion dollar per year fraud dating back 150 years, as follows:

  1. Physicians use fraudulent conduct in the hospital: they target newborn boys who are unable to defend themselves; target mothers who have just given birth, often on medications, who they should know are legally incapacitated; and medical professionals often badger the parents to give permission numerous times, which constitutes coercion.
  2. Urged on by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a trade association with an undisclosed financial bias in favor of perpetuating circumcision, physicians make fraudulent medical claims to persuade parents to elect circumcision. These include the false claims that circumcision prevents urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and some sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and the claim that the benefits outweigh the risks, which is illogical as the AAP conceded in 2012 that it does not know the risks, and the AAP assigned no value to the foreskin, even though genitally intact man greatly value it. Physicians also use fraudulent diagnoses including phimosis or a tight foreskin, which is normal, and “newborn boy”.
  3. Physicians and the AAP make the implied and express fraudulent legal claims that boys have no right to bodily integrity; that parents have the right to elect non-therapeutic circumcision (and for reasons having nothing to do with medicine); and that physicians have the legal right to take orders from parents to perform unnecessary surgery on a healthy child.
  4. As shown in the 2011 Medicaid article, physicians then commit Medicaid fraud by falsely certifying to state Medicaid agencies when they bill for reimbursement that it is medically necessary to circumcise healthy boys, and by using fraudulent diagnoses.
  5. The article also argues that non-therapeutic circumcision constitutes constructive fraud, where to prevent unfairness, court impute fraud as a matter of law even if intent to defraud is absent. The article argued that boys and their parents have a right to summary judgment without trial on their claims that circumcision is a battery, a breach of fiduciary duty, and constructive fraud, and that the statute of limitations begins upon discovery of the fraud.

In what is certain to be a landmark case in circumcision and the law, in February 2021, Shingo Lavine, the victim of a negligently performed circumcision, and his parents Adam and Aiko Lavine, represented by the circumcision trial lawyer David Llewellyn of Georgia and attorney Andrew DeLaney of New Jersey, sued a medical clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics in New Jersey state court. The suit alleges, based on Giannetti’s 1999 article and the 2020 fraud article, that the AAP committed intentional fraud and constructive fraud in issuing its pro-circumcision 1989 and 1999 circumcision policy statements. On June 18, 2021, the AAP filed a Motion to Dismiss, and the plaintiffs will find a responsive Memorandum of Law. The case now has been removed to federal court based on diversity of citizenship.


Is the Circumcision of Children a Fraud?

Male Circumcision Violates the Physician's Fiduciary Duty to the Child

Peter Adler on Why Circumcision is a Fraud and Landmark Legal Action

Standard work



  1. a b REFweb Juris Doctor, Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 October 2021. (Also known as Doctor of Law or Doctor of Jurisprudence.)
  2. a b REFweb Master of Arts, Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  3. REFweb Bachelor of Arts, Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 October 2021. (BA or AB; from the Latin baccalaureus artium or artium baccalaureus.)
  4. REFweb Doctor of Philosophy, Wikipedia. Retrieved 16 June 2021. (Also abbreviated as D.Phil.)
  5. REFweb Doctor of Medicine, Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 June 2021. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, the abbreviation MD is common.