A prominent group of doctors has come out against circumcision, but stopped short of calling for a total ban due to ethical, cultural and religious complexity surrounding the routine but medically unnecessary removal of a newborn male's foreskin.
More than 300 memebers of a major doctors' association in Denmark signed the recommendation, which they concede is largely symbolic but still a necessary statement of medical ethics, the New York Times reports.
Circumcision, they argue, is a permanent alteration that involves "pain and discomfort." Moreover, the doctors say the procedure is unethical to perform unless the person undergoing the procedure can provide informed consent—impossible for a newborn. Instead, young men should be able to make the decision for themselves when they are adults.
Danish society has increasingly rejected circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns, with some polls finding 75 percent of adults oppose it. However, the country's significant Muslim and Jewish populations still request it for newborn boys. Around 30 percent of males worldwide are circumcized.
The Danish doctors' move to stop short of an all-out legal ban was in part out of concern that families may resort to potentially harmful unauthorized procedures.
In the U.S., circumcision rates have been dropping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 58 percent of males born in 2010 underwent the procedure. The CDC realeased guidelines two years ago that endorsed the purported benefits of circumcision and cited studies of males in several countries in Africa that found a lowered risk for HIV infection and lower rates of urinary tract infections.
"The benefits of male circumcision have become more and more clear over the last 10 years," Dr. Aaron Tobian, a Johns Hopkins University researcher involved in one of the African studies, told the Associated Press.
Several anti-circumcision groups have since spoken out against the CDC's guidelines.