Foreskin fight: Florida parents fight over right to circumcise their son

Over the dozen years or so that I have been a pediatrician, I have witnessed many parental disagreements. One partner may feel strongly about something (exclusive breastfeeding, co-sleeping, food choices, to name a few) and the other either opposes their view or more likely, is unwilling to enforce their view. Often, these arguments come in the form of thinly veiled questions such as “isn’t it better for the baby to sleep in his own room?” or statements such as “please tell my husband that his mother cannot feed our toddler this.

These disagreements are sometimes mild and easily negotiated. Sometimes they require multiple visits and both parents present to come to a consensus. Nothing over the course of my tenure even comes close to the nonsense that is going on between two biological parents of a little boy in Florida. These people are fighting in court and in public over the father’s wish to circumcise their son. In the legal documents drafted at the time of the separation before the child was born, was a document in which the mother allowed her son to be circumcised if the father wished. Fast-forward over three years, and the father decided to have the child circumcised. The mother, adamantly opposed to circumcision at this point, takes the issue to court. The court upholds the original document allowing for the father to make this decision. People in Florida are now protesting both the court’s decision as well as at the office of the surgeon who signed on to do the procedure.

So many ethical questions arise in this situation. Are the parents of a child required to be in agreement for a non-essential surgery to take place? Should a surgeon perform a surgery that has been labeled not medically necessary if both parents are not in agreement? Is a 4-year-old mature enough to refuse said surgery (this child has said ‘no thank you’ to the proposed circumcision)? Should the courts uphold a document that was drafted when the risks of the surgery were less (routine circumcision is least risky in the first month of life)? Just thinking about all of the issues makes my head spin.

Beyond all of the very real legal issues of this ‘case,’ I can’t help but think, “What is wrong with these people?” Have they nothing more important to worry about in raising their son than a foreskin? Do they hate each other so much that they want to put their child and their own lives out there subject to public scrutiny? If they fight about this, what happens when a really critical decision needs to be made? I feel for this child. I’m frustrated by the behavior of the grown-ups in his life. I hope they get over themselves in time to realize they have an opportunity to raise a lovely little boy in peace and love and outside the court system.

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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Board Certified Pediatrician

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.


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