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Doctors Opposing Circumcision

Ralph welcomes Dr. George Denniston, founder of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, who argues that male circumcision is unnecessary, unethical, as well as  physically and psychologically harmful. Then Public Citizen’s, Rick Claypool, gives us an update on how the Trump Administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy for border crossings and street crime does not extend to his buddies in the corporate world. Plus listener questions!

Dr. George C. Denniston is the founder and President of Doctors Opposing Circumcision. He is a graduate of Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health as well as being a former Associate Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A retired professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington. Dr. Denniston founded Doctors Opposing Circumcision in 1995.

“What we’re dealing with here is that the doctors are under a compulsion to do this (circumcision), because they have been harmed (by circumcision) themselves. They can’t seem to let it alone. That’s why I think the only way to treat this is to get a law against it. That’s the only thing they’re going to listen to.” Dr. George Denniston, founder of Doctors Opposing Circumcision

Rick Claypool is a research director for Public Citizen’s President’s office, where he focuses on corporate crime and wrongdoing and the ways corporate power distorts democracy. Mr. Claypool produces reports on a range of topics including federal enforcement against corporations and deregulation under the Trump administration.

“This obsession with immigration enforcement has distorted Justice Department enforcement. It’s at the point now where in border states only 6% of all the cases prosecutors are working on are not immigration related. Corporate and white-collar crime are a sliver of that 6%. Everything else (94%) is being focused on prosecuting first-time border crossers.” Rick Claypool, co-author of Public Citizen’s report “Corporate Impunity Worsens Under Trump.”


  1. Donald Klepack says:

    From a non Trump supporter, Barack Obama was the biggest friend to Corporations. In 2008 public opinion was at the highest for Corporations, especially large banks, to be legally prosecuted. Democrats controlled 3 branches of government and Obama made it a policy not to prosecute. This decision was as worse for our domestic policy as George W Bush’s Policy to attack Iraq for our International Policy. At least Bush had public opinion on his side.

    • Yes, we need to stop electing corporate Democrats. If you recall, in 2006 voters swept in Democrats when they had gotten tired of the corruption of the Republican Party. After that blue wave, it was up to Democrats to re-write the rules of Congress. They did make some positive reforms but they fell far short of their mandate from the voters to clean up DC and make strong ethics rules to end corruption. If we can’t root out the corrupt Democrats, we will forever be stuck in this cycle of electing corrupt Republicans to replace the corrupt Democrats we’ve gotten sick of. Then reverse the trend two or four years later. Not working!

  2. constance lee says:

    40 years ago it was an easy decision for us. Fortunately we had a great doctor and my husband was from England and was not cut and neither was our son. Thank you for this interview.

  3. Ralph Lebonowitz says:

    Our son was born in 1980 at a particularly shabby HMO in Seattle, Group Health (it was the cheapest federal health plan at the time). Before he was born we were asked in writing if we wanted him circumcised. We checked the box “no”. Nevertheless a Group Health nurse visited us the day after the birth and tried to get us to change or mind and circumcise our son. We again said “no” and felt they we being really intrusive by sending a nurse to talk us into circumcision. As you might expect, we chose Blue Cross health plan at the next open season – and never regretted it. Our son is now in his late 30s and is as healthy as a man can be.

    How many other crazy procedures does the medical profession indulge in?

  4. H says:

    Are all comments hidden from view?

    • Skro35 says:

      No, but they don’t appear immediately, because we filter out spam. And first and last names included also help us to judge whether a comment is a real person. Thank you.

  5. Val Escher says:

    As a physician myself, I have long agreed that the choice of whether this entirely elective procedure should be performed should be made by the patient when he is old enough to decide for himself.

    Having said that, I don’t think Dr. Denniston helps the cause with his claim that “literally there are doctors who go into medicine because they’ve been circumcised–it’s subconscious–but they go into medicine because they want to get revenge.” That is a truly absurd suggestion. And it doesn’t account for the thousands of female physicians in the US who also routinely recommend circumcision and perform circumcision on their patients. More women than men practice obstetrics and pediatrics, which I believe are the two specialties performing the majority of the procedures in newborns.

    Dr. Denniston also would have made a much more compelling case in the interview with a clearer and more forceful *evidence-based rebuttal* of studies that suggest circumcision reduces the risk of acquiring HIV and certain other sexually-transmissible infections; of contracting urinary tract infections; and of developing cancer of the penis, which was the main reason some of my medical school professors 30 years ago taught us that neonatal circumcision should be recommended to patients. A strong rebuttal of pro-circumcision arguments based on these studies is needed because many of the doctors & nurses advising parents to elect the procedure will tell parents that their recommendations are based on them.

  6. Don Harris says:

    You said the first step is to subordinate corporate capitalism to the power of popular democracy. This requires removing the Big Money from our political process- something that you and I and 80% of citizens want.
    The question is how to accomplish the goal.
    Most approaches involve some sort of legislation (including Constitutional amendments). Legislation cannot solve the problem.
    The reason Big Money in our political process is a problem is that when the Big Money legislators pass legislation it is designed to benefit the Big Money interests and not ordinary citizens. The Big Money interests have no interest in removing the Big Money from our political process.
    So in order to pass legislation to get the Big Money out of politics you first have to replace the Big Money legislators with small contribution legislators. The problem has to solved BEFORE the legislation to solve the problem can be passed.
    Another problem with legislation is that it enables politicians to promise to do something in the future rather than take action now and enables citizens to do the same thing by voting for them.
    A different approach would be for citizens to take action now that forces the politicians to take action now.
    Citizens can register at that they will only vote for small contribution candidates and will cast a write in vote if there are no small contribution candidates on their ballot to register a vote against the Big Money candidates and to demonstrate and create demand for small contribution candidates.
    They can also commit to contributions to small contribution candidates. Just 10% of citizens committing to just 100 dollars in contributions to candidates making the small contribution commitment would total over 1 billion dollars and remove the excuse that candidates have no choice but to take Big Money.
    And these contributions will be made DIRECTLY to the candidates and not through One Demand so the participants control who they support (and to relieve me of the responsibility for all that money).
    If you keep voting for Big Money candidates you will keep getting Big Money legislators.
    On your October appearance on Washington Journal when I called in about this approach and how I had been unable to get through to you, you said “I”m sorry you couldn’t get through. Try it again. We’ll get you on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour which is on once a week and discuss this. Anybody that has the civic energy you have deserves to be heard in this cacophony of false fake news and clutter.”
    You may have meant to say you would consider having me on the Radio Hour.
    When I tried again and and followed up your representative apologized for not getting back to me and said she thought you had said you would deal with this through listener questions and not a segment on the show and said she would try to follow up with more information.
    Without this information I do not know why this approach does not warrant a segment. It can’t be because you think the approach won’t won’t work. The approach is nothing more than a way for citizens to use the power of popular democracy to subordinate corporate capitalism and you couldn’t possibly believe that democracy won’t work.
    And because it requires no legislation, citizens can use this approach RIGHT NOW instead of voting for Big Money candidates that promise legislation sometime in the future.
    If you do discuss this in the limited exchange of listener questions, why not ask your listeners if this should be a segment? If enough listeners sign my petition (you pick the number) then put me on the show.
    Listeners that do not want to wait for Ralph to accept the challenge can sign the petition and let Ralph know you would like this approach discussed on the show.

  7. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    Takes a lot of gonads to even broach the subject of male genital mutilation. Thanks Ralph.

  8. Steve Shapiro says:

    Given all the horrible things going on in the world, spending precious air time on circumcision is very disappointing, to say the least. We’ve come to expect a lot more.
    Please get your focus back.

  9. John says:

    Why don’t my questions ever get asked??

  10. Dale West says:

    How about the dental fallacy of preventative third molar extractions. The high pressure by private dentists to remove healthy teeth for with no statistics & no reason except it might become a problem. The same could be said for the other 28 teeth – they might get caries. In the 70 & 80’s all my school friends did not question this practice. I was still getting pressure in the 90’s from dentists. Fear is a great marketing tool.

  11. Tom says:

    It’s a shame that a sensitive and divisive (sorry, couldn’t resist) subject like this is being argued by someone who is dissembling and dismissive of opposing arguments (“there may be, I don’t know), who in almost all cases avoids citing actual statistics and comparative rates (aspirin has 4 pages of possible side effects too, including death) and just downright bizarre) doctors wanting revenge??? I think he is the one who needs some psychological councilling.

  12. Tom G says:

    Beyond the strange claim that doctors have a deep psychological compulsion to perform circumcisions, the doctor stated that there are no health benefits of the procedure. A simple google search shows the contrary, as shown by this CDC communication of actual study results. Unfortunately, after this biased presentation, I have no more reliable information on which to form an opinion on the subject than I had before.

    “Importantly, male circumcision can be protective against HIV transmission through sexual intercourse. Circumcision significantly reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive woman during penile-vaginal sex, as shown by several types of research. A review of 28 studies of male circumcision, as it is related to heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa, showed that the relative risk for becoming infected with HIV was 44% lower in circumcised men. In addition, male circumcision has been associated with protection against other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and chancroid (3).”