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Delicate decision

To circumcise or not? As the practice grows less common in the U.S., parents weigh the medical, social and religious pros and cons.

March 31, 2008|Marnell Jameson | Special to The Times

His wife, Nada, however, worried about the responsibility of keeping her newborn's penis clean. She thought circumcision would help reduce the risk of infection and disease. "I wasn't keen on my baby having a surgical procedure, but then I thought, why not if we can offer him more protection?"

In the end, Tony sided with his wife. Their son was born Feb. 10, and was circumcised the next day. Tony held him during the procedure. "There was no bleeding and he didn't even cry," he says. "I'm still not convinced it was medically necessary, but I didn't want to burden my wife with the worry of cleaning it. And maybe it will be easier for him in the locker room."

If parents do opt for the procedure, Freedman advises that they do it when the baby is a newborn, have someone trained and experienced perform the procedure, and use pain control. "The older a child gets, the less benefit there is, and the greater the risk," he says. "I would ask parents of an older child to strongly reconsider if the only reason they're doing this is cosmetic."

Freedman faced the decision in his own home. He's Jewish and his wife is not. She wasn't for circumcision. In the end, they agreed to circumcise their son, and he performed the procedure. "I didn't make any excuses that this was to avoid a UTI, or for medical reasons. My rationale was this: As a Jewish male in a long line of tradition, I didn't want to be the link in a chain that broke."

As parents and task forces sort through the variables surrounding this intimate decision, Freedman offers parents in turmoil this comforting advice: "Rest assured. No matter what decision parents make for their son, most men think whatever they have is just fine."

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