Climb in demand for circumcision in Hunter

DESPITE a ban in public hospitals, many Hunter parents are having their newborn sons circumcised, fuelling growing demand in the private sector.

Proponents say it reduces the risk of infectious diseases and cancer, while critics argue there is little medical reason to circumcise an infant.

General practitioner and former GP obstetrician Milton Sales is one of a limited number of Hunter clinicians doing circumcisions in the private sector.

He does about 25 to 28 on one day each fortnight, or up to 700 a year, in an operating theatre under local anaesthetic.

‘‘The numbers have been climbing steadily,’’ Dr Sales said. Medicare statistics showed that about 10per cent of newborn boys were circumcised in 1996 compared with about 13per cent now, he said.

The greatest number was done in NSW, where cases have almost doubled in the past 15 years from about 5500 to 9000 a year.

Penny Atkins and Glen Morgan, of Waratah, had son Dexter circumcised when he was four weeks old.

‘‘We just decided that instead of, you know, worrying about if he was going to have infections later on as a younger child or adult, we just made the decision to get him circumcised,’’ Miss Atkins said.

‘‘My partner’s done.

‘‘We just decided we’d keep our son the same and eliminate the possibility of having infections later on.’’

Dexter, now aged three months, had no complications.

‘‘I don’t regret having it done at all,’’ Miss Atkins said.

Dr Sales said advantages of the procedure included reduced risk of urinary tract infections in infancy, and less chance of suffering foreskin infections and penile cancer in adulthood.

Parents often opted for their sons to be circumcised due to cultural and religious reasons or so sons were the same as their fathers, he said.

Risks included infections and bleeding following surgery.

Critics say the science is not robust enough and nor are the potential benefits of circumcision big enough to justify the risks of complications.

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