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Flatt v. Kantak/Informed Consent    Fishbeck v. State of ND/FGM Lawsuit     Foreign Press    Legal briefs of the North Dakota suits   >Separated at Birth 

Links to Press Coverage of North Dakota issues:
Mervin Gajewski sues State of North Dakota
Press coverage of Flatt v. Kantak and Meritcare Hospital
Press coverage of Fishbeck v. State of North Dakota
New York Stowell Lawsuit--Teenager Sues Hospital

Making the Cut, Minot Daily News, March 19, 1999
Circumcision Violates Basic Human Rights, Bismarck Tribune, May 1994
Seminar deems circumcision surgery without merit
December 1992

Other press coverage:
WFCR radio interview with Leonard Glick

Influenced by infant's cries, man wants ban on circumcision

By JAMES WARDEN Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mervin Gajewski remembers hearing an infant's wails while he was having blood tests done in a Watford City hospital a few years ago.

"Somebody better help that baby. He sounds hurt," the 78-year-old Alexander man says he told a nurse. "You would be, too, if you were being circumcised," she replied.

When a friend's daughter chose to circumcise her son last year, Gajewski decided to sue, in an attempt to get North Dakota courts to ban circumcision. A judge dismissed Gajewski's case last week, but he said he intends to continue, perhaps with an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

"I don't intend to be done with this case one way or another," he said.

Circumcision involves the removal of sensitive foreskin from the penis. The procedure is usually done on infants.

Nationally, about 56 percent of male infants are circumcised, according to a 2003 survey compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Midwestern region, which includes North Dakota, had a 78 percent circumcision rate, which is the highest in the country, said CDC spokesman Bill Crews.

In a March 1999 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there are "potential medical benefits" to circumcision, including a lessening of the risk of getting urinary tract infections. However, existing data "are not sufficient to recommend routine ... circumcision" of newborns, the statement says.

Gajewski says the reasons justifying the procedure are speculative, using the assumption that "somewhere down the line, it's going to be good for you."

"Surgery isn't done that way," he said.

Gajewski believes male circumcision is tantamount to genital mutilation. The Legislature made female genital mutilation a felony crime in 1995. Gajewski's lawsuit argued that courts should extend the ban to boys.

Northwest District Judge Gerald Rustad dismissed the case last week, saying Gajewski had no standing to bring the case. Gajewski was suing on behalf of North Dakota boys younger than 18, but he is 78 years old, and does not represent any young boys, the judge said.

"Although the topic is one which could result in interesting information and analysis in the proper forum, this court has not been presented any precedent which would persuade it that (Gajewski) has standing to bring the action," Rustad wrote in his dismissal order.

North Dakota's state and federal courts have taken up the issue previously.

Last September, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Fargo doctor who had circumcised an infant in March 1997. The boy's mother argued she was not told in detail about the procedure's benefits and potential risks.

The woman, Anita Flatt of Hawley, Minn., also had argued that North Dakota's law barring female genital mutilation did not offer equal protection to males. The Supreme Court said Flatt did not have standing to make that argument.

In June 1996, a Bismarck woman, Donna Fishbeck, made similar equal-protection arguments in a federal lawsuit against the state. Fishbeck's infant son had been circumcised with the consent of the boy's father, even though she objected to the procedure.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Conmy dismissed the case, ruling that Fishbeck did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Conmy's ruling in June 1997.

"Even if we were to declare the North Dakota statute invalid because it is underinclusive, and even if ... we could enter some kind of decree that would criminalize male circumcision, there is no assurance at all that the injury claimed by Fishbeck, either on her own behalf of on behalf of her son, would be redressed," the appeals court's decision says.

Circumcision opponents say the foreskin protects the penis and can enhance sexual pleasure. Gajewski, who is not circumcised, said those benefits are being taken away without reason.

"It's unnecessary and detrimental to a male," he said. "You destroy too much potential."


Minot Daily News
(Minot, North Dakota) ,
March 19, 1999, page B1
by Jill Schramm, Staff Writer

Making the Cut
New recommendations on circumcision reflect
what local pediatricians already tell patients

Minot pediatricians won't be changing their advice to expectant parents in light of new recommendations on circumcision from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Local doctors said the information they have been giving out is similar to the new recommendations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced in a position statement March 1 that the medical benefits of circumcising newborns aren't significant enough to recommend it as a routine procedure. However, the group stopped short of advising against circumcision and suggested for the first time that newborns get pain relief.

In its last policy statement on the issue, in 1989, the academy said circumcision has potential medical benefits as well as risks and should be carefully explained to parents.

Dr. Roger Allen of Pediatric Associates in Minot said the practice of circumcising male newborns gained popularity in the mid-1980's after a study showing health benefits, such as reduced risk of urinary tract infection.

The pediatric academy found some medical benefits of circumcision, which it considered insignificant:

--Uncircumcised boys have a 1 in 1000 chance of getting a urinary tract infection in their first year of life: for circumcised boys the change is 1 in 1,000.

--Penile cancer occurs more often among uncircumcised males. But the disease is rare, striking just 1 in 1000,000 American males a year.

Local pediatricians agree the health benefits are insignificant, but they note the risks of doing the surgery also are small. About 1 in 100 circumcisions might result in a minor complication, such as bleeding or treatable infection.

Depending on the circumcision method, between 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 20,000 might result in a serious complication. Dr. Thomas Carver of Medical Arts Clinic said.

Three of the four pediatricians at Medical Arts perform circumcisions, and Allen said any of the doctors at Pediatric Associates will do them. Some family practice physicians and obstetricians in Minot also perform them.

Different Minot pediatricians report anywhere from fewer than half to 90 percent of infant male patients in their practices are circumcised. They also said the use of an anesthetic for the infants has been routine in Minot in the past several years.

Circumcision Opponents Disagree With Policy Statement

Jody McLaughlin of Minot, who has been active in campaigning against routine circumcision, was critical of the American Academy of Pediatrics acceptance of cultural and religious reasons for circumcision.

McLaughlin said acknowledging cultural factors runs counter to a 1996 federal law that criminalizes surgical alteration of female genitals as a cultural ritual. She also took issue with physicians performing nonmedical procedures, even with parental consent.

The academy's bioethics committee has taken the position that medical providers have legal and ethical duties to their child patients to render competent medical care based on what the patient needs, not what someone else wants, she said.

Minot pediatrician Roger Allen compared circumcision to elective plastic surgeries performed on children with parental consent.

"There must be understanding by the family that this is a cosmetic procedure." he said of circumcision.
Michael Larson, Editor The Minot Daily News

PO Box 1150
Minot, ND 58702
News Dept.: (701)857-1950 or (800)735-3229 News Fax: (701)857-1961


Bismarck Tribune
Bismarck, North Dakota
December 1994
Letter to the Editor

Circumcision Violates Basic Human Rights
A Reply to Dr Gott's Column
by Duane Voskuil, PhD

Not only is routine infant circumcision “not necessary for good health,” to quote Dr. Gott (Bismarck Tribune 11/29/94), it violates basic human rights: The right to grow up unmaimed with a whole, intact body and the right to self-determination.

Ethically, all discussion of potential medical benefits is irrelevant unless there are immediate and compelling reasons that cancel the non-consenting infant’s rights. Only healthy penises are routinely circumcised, so what right does anyone, parent or physician, have to amputate this healthy tissue? What moral imperative overrides the right to determine one’s own bodily integrity?

Circumcision’s so-called potential benefits never balance out its well-documented actual harms and potential risks. Dr. Gott fails to mention one in 500 amputations have serious complications--including loss of penis and even death--according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The psychological consequences of growing up not having one’s whole body nor full sexual feeling are just beginning to be examined.

Even the so-called benefits Dr. Gott mentions are wrong or misleading. Perhaps one will have fewer problems of one kind (like balanitis), but only at the expense of others (like meatitis, and meatal stenosis). See the AAP flyer: Care of the Uncircumcised Penis. A slight decrease in urinary tract infections according to some studies is denied by others, and females have four times as many UTIs as males in any case. The slight increase in cervical cancer is related to the number of sex partners, not circumcision. According to some local physicians, local anesthesia is seldom used. Even with it, the baby still experiences emotional and genital pain.

Would it be acceptable to surgically remove female prepuces or someone’s finger if it could be done painlessly? Non-consensual prepuce amputation is genital mutilation. It is sexual child abuse. The adult foreskin is 15 square inches of highly specialized, sensitive tissue which protects the glans from desensitization. Amputation of any other healthy organ without the individual’s consent would put the perpetrator in jail.

Infant circumcision in the U.S. began in earnest 100 years ago to stop masturbation which was blamed for mental and physical diseases. Clitorises were also excised for the same reasons. A woman of Scandinavian ancestry told me this was done to her as a three-year-old at a Wahpeton clinic. Circumcision continues for a number of cultural reasons: It produces income; it expresses a need to control; and it makes us reluctant to admit we’ve been mutilated by those we love and respect, or admit we’ve maimed another we should have protected. See Say No to Circumcision: 40 Compelling Reasons Why you Should Respect His Birthright and Keep Your Son Whole, available in local libraries.

In researching the origins and ethical considerations of ritual circumcision, I’ve found most physicians know circumcision is at best cosmetic surgery. Some believe it is sexual child abuse. Some say the public should be told of the inadvisability of prepuce amputation. Some say circumcisions continue from fear of losing future business. From written correspondence and direct conversations, the following  North Dakotans agree routine circumcisers are not providing a medically justified procedure:

• Rhonda Ketterling, M.D., Chair, ND Board of Medical Examiners, Medical Director for U.S. Healthcare, Bismarck, and practicing physician, Rugby.
• Arlene Mack, R.N., Vice President, Medcenter One, Support Services, speaking for Medcenter One, said their physicians have agreed not to recommend circumcisions and will explain the risks.
• Shari Orser, M.D., Chair, Department of Ob/Gyn, Medcenter One, Bismarck.
• Robert Wentz, M.D., pediatrician, former ND State Health Officer, now Deputy Insurance Commissioner.
• Jon Rice, M.D., ND State Health Officer.
• Sister Mary Margaret Mooney, P.B.V.M., R.N., Professor and Chair, Department of Nursing, University of Mary.
• Gladys Cairns, Director, ND Child Protective Services and Chair of the Alliance for Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment.
• Roger Allen, M.D. neonatologist, Minot.
• Craig Shoemaker, M.D., Director of Neonatal Services and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Fargo Clinic MeritCare.
• Ron H. Miller, M.D., pediatrician, Fargo Clinic MeritCare.
• Alan Lindemann, M.D., Ob/Gyn, Fargo.
• Thomas W. Mausbach, M.D., former President, ND Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
• Charles Severn, M.D., Chair, Department of Neonatology, St. Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck.
• Connie Kalanek, M.S.N., R.N.C., Associate Professor, Medcenter One College of Nursing.
• Robert Roswick, M.D., and Jeffrey Smith, M.D., Family Medical Center, Bismarck.
• Judy Haynes, Ph.D., UND Counseling Center and clinical psychologist, Grand Forks.
• Robert Pathroff, M.D., urologist, Bismarck.
• BlueCross BlueShield of North Dakota.
• North Dakota Medicaid.

Only 5% of the world’s people are circumcised as infants (15% at all ages), and most are ritual amputations. Roman Catholic Bishop John F. Kinney, Bismarck Diocese, and Robert Lynne, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Western ND, say their churches have no circumcision ritual. Many Jews find this ritual no longer appropriate to express God’s love and advocate symbolic substitutes. Non-Moslem countries cannot believe we painfully disfigure 60% of our infant sons and deprive our men of this organ. It’s past time to break the conspiracy of silence on this injustice.

Duane Voskuil, Ph.D.
Philosophy and Ethics Instructor
Bismarck State College


Seminar deems circumcision surgery without merit
Bismarck State College Mystician, Dec. 10, 1992

The main message of the circumcision seminar was to stop letting doctors perform circumcisions on children.

Marilyn Milos, RN, the director of the National Organization for Circumcision Information Resource Centers, was the guest speaker for the Circumcision Seminar held at BSC, Dec. 4, sponsored by Dr. Duane Voskuil.

Voskuil became interested in the affects of circumcision when studying patriarchal societies and came upon information regarding various forms of genital mutilations.

He decided to find out the reasons for these barbaric acts. After some research, he found that circumcision has nothing to do with medicine, so he decided to create "some social consciousness in the community" by inviting Milos to BSC and to the U of Mary.

According to Milos, circumcisions were first done [in the United States] to prevent masturbation, which was seen as the cause of many diseases. Some of which are TB, polio, blindness, headaches, gout, and the age old myth of hair on the palms of the hands.

By the turn of the 20th century, the microscope had been invented and these diseases were found to be caused by bacteria, so new excuses were invented. Hygiene was blamed [the next excuse] for male and female circumcisions, and [supposedly preventing] penile cancer for males was another.

 In the 50's it was thought that women with uncircumcised husbands had a high risk of cervical cancer. This was a statement without fact.

A more recent fallacy s that men are at a greater risk for AIDS if they are not circumcised. The United States has the highest AIDS rate and circumcision rate in the world. Circumcisions at this time are [mainly] done by English speaking countries.

Studies show that 38 percent of women have no idea if their husbands are circumcised and 34 percent of men share this concept. Very few Americans have ever seen a normal penis.

A normal penis, as Milos describes it, has a head that is meant to be an internal organ with a protective covering called the foreskin. This is what is cut away during circumcision. After this is cut away the head is exposed to urine, feces, diapers, and underwear. There is much irritation from friction at first. The head becomes calloused and causes lack of sensation.

After circumcision, many males complain of loss of sensitivity, tightness during erection where the scar site is, and that it alters normal sexual functions.

Milos states that "there is no medical indication for routine circumcisions of the newborn... It is a cutting off of normal healthy human tissue. Circumcision is only done by someone trying to control. This has become a human rights issue for all of us."

Milos is an authority on circumcision and has spoke at The International Congress on Pre‑ and Perninatal Psychology, and has been a guest on radio and TV programs including Nightline and Donahue.

Politics of circumcision were discussed, as were different doctor's opinions.

After the seminar there was a question and answer time, and then a video on circumcision. The video after the seminar made women as well as men cross their legs. It showed baby boys undergoing circumcisions and young girls having clitoridectomies.


Court Documents



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