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North Dakota Quotations
Compiled  by Duane Voskuil  and Jody McLaughlin--1992-Present  

  Request to Change or Add Quote    NDBME 1995
       
     

Quoted groups on this page:
Physicians
Insurance Companies
Nurses & Professors of Nursing
Government, Educational, Association and Hospital Statements
Attorneys and Judges
Religious Leaders
Other Citizens 
North Dakota College Students
Our Thanks

 

         

Physicians

Rhonda Ketterling, M. D., Rugby physician, former Chair of the North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners (NDBME) and Medical Director for U.S. Healthcare, in a letter, November 20,  1992, to Duane Voskuil: “I sympathize with your desire to have infant circumcision become a thing of the past,...” She wrote further, “You will not get the medical profession to overwhelmingly alter its practice by coming on with an accusation of child abuse and/or sexual abuse....your best bet in this program [to stop routine infant circumcision] is that of education, not only of the general public, but of physicians...[and to] get insurance companies not to reimburse for circumcision...[since] this is not a medically necessary procedure.” In a phone conversation taped with permission by Jody McLaughlin, 1993, she also said that giving consent for surgery forms to parents to sign, who do not ask for them, could be considered solicitation for elective surgery.  

Robert Wentz, M.D., pediatrician and North Dakota State Health Officer: “Time has come to stop the practice of routine infant circumcision,” He wrote further “that the purported medical indications are outweighed by risks and disadvantages and that circumcisions represent an unnecessary health care cost.” Letter to Duane Voskuil,  October 1, 1992.

Roger Allen, M.D., neonatologist, Minot, during an interview on KMOT TV, November 1992: “Parents have usually made a firm decision [whether or not to circumcise] before they ever talk to me. Their decisions are 95% based on emotions and 5% based on fact...There is no compelling reason to do a circumcision, but on the other hand, there is no compelling reason not to.” He repeated essentially the same words again during a TV interview, May 1994. [See Janet Wentz’ appropriate response below under Government Officials: “If there is no compelling reason to do a circumcision, that is a compelling reason not to do one.”]

Craig Shoemaker, M.D., Director of Neonatal Services and Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Fargo Clinic, MeritCare during a phone conversation: “You’re right. We only circumcise healthy babies.”  He also agreed that the medical reasons for routine circumcision are not compelling, and also wrote, November 3 1992: “I personally do not feel that I have the right to decide for my patients [parents or newborn?] whether or not they should be circumcised.” [Many people have a hard time seeing the patient––the infant––as the patient. Elective surgeries must be elected by the patient to be morally justified.]

  “We only remove the over-growth.” To a reporter, June 1996, during a TV interview broadcast in Fargo, ND.

"It [the AAP Task Force on Circumcision (1999)] essentially takes the position that for healthy new born male infants circumcision is up to the parents." But for conditions like phimosis or balanitis, "which is an infection of the space between the foreskin of the foreskin itself, circumcision is an accepted form of therapy, to prevent the infections from reoccurring." The infections are "very painful." Newspaper article, October 11, 2000. Shoemaker still thinks the parent is the patient and is not up to date on noninvasive procedures to treat infections. Phimosis is not diagnosable in infants, and balanitis is most often caused by harmful retraction (as with the Price's child that Shoemaker is commenting on) contrary to accepted standard of practice.

Ron H. Miller, M.D., pediatrician, Fargo Clinic, letter to Duane Voskuil, September 26 1992: “What risk is acceptable when one is tampering with something that is normal?...Physicians in general are very divided on this....although most pediatricians take a fairly moderate if not anticircumcision approach, most urologists and surgeons in the United States, even ones who trained in Canada, seem to take a position advocating circumcision.” He also was successful several years ago to get BlueCross BlueShield to stop covering it. They later reversed this policy and have continued paying  for routine circumcision

Shari L. Orser, M.D., Ob/Gyn, Q&R/Women's Health Center and UND medical school graduate in a letter to Duane Voskuil, November 24, 1992: “I personally am opposed to circumcision....I feel that the evidence is not strong enough to support circumcision as a routine and that the practice should be discontinued.”

Shari L. Orser, M.D. Chair, Department of OB/GYN, Medcenter One: “It was felt that educating the parents should be the key focus, and the members of the Department of OB/GYN have agreed to make a concerted effort to provide parents with information regarding [the risks of] circumcision. However, if after reviewing the information the parents wish to proceed with the procedure, we will abide by their wishes, and they will be required to provide the hospital with a signed informed consent.” Letter, October 5, 1994.

Alan Lindemann, M.D., Ob/Gyn, Fargo, November 1992: “If we were to take routine infant circumcision outside the present circumstances, it would clearly be child abuse....Parents should be forced to watch a circumcision before they agree to one....I was taught at UND that it didn’t hurt.”

Dennis J. Lutz, M.D. Chairman UND Medical School Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in a letter to Duane Voskuil, 10/30/92: “Obviously there are design problems with some of the studies,...[but] Enough studies linking STD’s [sexually transmitted diseases] to uncircumcised males have been published to give rise to the often repeated admonition ‘it doesn’t matter what you do with your sons, but don’t let your daughters sleep with uncircumcised males.’” [I find Dennis Lutz and George Johnson, below, fellow faculty members of the ND University System, to hold intellectually embarrassing positions.]  

George Magnus Johnson, M.D., Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, UND School of Medicine in a letter to Duane Voskuil, September 7, 1992: “Urologists stoutly maintain that cancer prevention (squamous cell carcinoma of the penile foreskin) is one of the major reasons for circumcisions. This is a reason above and beyond prevention of urinary infections in the males.”  [More babies die from circumcision than old men do from penile cancer (about 200 per year), and Wiswell’s UTI correlation’s have been shown to be systematically flawed and statistically trivial even if true. 100 healthy babies would need surgery to prevent one treatable UTI. Not all, or even most (hardly any in Europe and Asia), urologists will put their credentials on the line to defend this practice. See Robert Pathroff above.]

Charles Severn, M.D., St. Alexius and Robert Grassy, M.D., formerly of Medcenter One, both told Duane Voskuil in phone conversations, fall of 1992, that the surgery is not medically indicated, though they do them because the parents want them.

Robert Roswick, M.D. and Jeffrey Smith, M.D., Family Medical Center, Bismarck, in office visit conversations, 1993: “Routine infant circumcisions are not done for medical reasons.”  

Daniel Gruver, MD. in a letter to the Bismarck Tribune, January 22, 1993: “I worked in Panama as a doctor for 20 years and saw many, many complications of foreskins not being circumcised....All of these [cancer, adhesions, urinary retention, phimosis and surgical infections] are avoided by the simple process of circumcision. The urologist [who?] informs me that AIDS is more likely to be transmitted to and from non-circumcised men; and urinary tract infections are more likely to occur also.” [Amputating part of one’s penis is not “simple,” that is, insignificant, and does not decrease sexually transmitted diseases. As for UTIs, even the questionable retrospective studies by Thomas Wiswell show a hundred circumcisions would be required to prevent one UTI, and still girls are four times more likely to get a UTI than boys. What about the many “botched jobs,” even death, and the loss of half the penis’ sensuous nerve endings?]  

Thomas W. Mausbach, M.D., former ND Chapter President, American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter to Rhonda Ketterling, Chair of the ND Board of Medical Examiners, 1/26/93: “...I think the important issue is that the total complete scientific evidence is just not complete yet [it is for most  people in the world, and this is the very reason for a moratorium]....The key issue is that these individuals who are against circumcisions have no significant scientific evidence to justify a moratorium against circumcisions in our state. Personally I do not feel they are going to go very far because of these public and social issues regarding circumcisions in the United States. I guess it is better to have them standing on the soapbox regarding this issue than something that could be a more detrimental issue for medicine. Sorry I could not help you any further but I think philosophically these people do not have much ground to stand on.” [Even the national AAP does not recommend routine infant circumcision. He confuses “medicine” with “health.” Most MD’s do not agree with his view. Even Rhonda Ketterling , to whom he is writing, does not think routine circumcision is sound medical practice.]

Robert Pathroff, M.D., urologist, Bismarck, ND, verbally, June 1994: “Routine circumcisions cannot be justified on medical grounds.”

Jon Rice, M.D., Former ND State Health Officer: “This [routine infant circumcision] is not a medical issue.” in a conversation with Jody McLaughlin, July 1993. He elaborated that his reluctance to deal with the circumcision issue, was due to the fact that he was mainly interested in medical issues, not health issues, because even though he is the State Health Officer, he is a physician first.

Wes Borowski, MD, Rugby in a letter to the Minot Daily News, 1/14/95: “...To describe the foreskin as an essential [body] part would be reaching beyond the boundaries of common sense. I agree that infant circumcision cannot be strictly defined as medically essential.” [What other healthy body parts are not essential? Is the female prepuce, e.g., any more essential?]

Manuel Neto, MD, regarding his opinion on surgery for hypospadias: Neto said a male infant did not need corrective surgery to his urinary opening, but should be circumcised so he "Doesn't get picked on by other boys because he won't be urinating straight," because "He won't learn as well in school if he doesn't get circumcised". Centennial Medical Center in Minot, August 22, 1994, Complaint to ND Board of Medical Examiners.

Joseph Cleary, MD, Medical Consultant for ND Medicaid said Medicaid does not cover circumcision unless there is a medical indication, which includes phimosis [prepuce is too tight] and balanitis [an infection of the prepuce or glans penis]. He said these two conditions can happen the first day after delivery. January 1996 [Phimosis is not a condition diagnosable in newborns or children, and balanitis is a highly unlikely condition for  neonates, according to Robert S. Van Howe, M.D. FAAP, unless someone is forcing back the  prepuce.]

M. F. Buscemi, MD, Urologist, Medcenter One, Bismarck, when asked whether he did foreskin restorations, said he wouldn’t do them even if he knew how. He went on to berate “those people” trying to get nonconsensual circumcision outlawed. “Jews have to do it. You can’t tell someone they can’t do this. Who do they think they are, anyway? This is America, for chrissake.” He felt strongly enough to return to the topic and basically repeat what he had said. May 1996.
  

    

Insurance Companies
  

         

Medicaid’s present policy statement for ND: “Effective for services provided on or after November 1, 1986, the North Dakota Medical Assistance Program will provide payment for circumcisions only when there is documented evidence that the circumcision was performed due to medical necessity. Routine circumcisions that are not medically indicated will no longer be reimbursable through the Medical Assistance Program.” And further, David Zentner, Medicaid Director, offered the following policy statement from the ND Department of Humans Services: “Medicaid pays for circumcisions only when they are medically necessary. Our medical consultant [Joseph Cleary, MD] reviews all claims with circumcisions and payment is allowed for the diagnoses phimosis and balanitis. If other diagnoses are used, the medical necessity must be documented and approved by the medical consultant. Routine circumcision for newborns are not a covered service. Providers should notify the family before the procedure is performed that Medicaid will not cover routine circumcisions.” Emphasis added. [Phimosis cannot be a diagnosis for a newborn or even an infant, since whether or not the prepuce is too tight (phimosis) cannot be known until its tissue physiologically differentiates from the glans, often not until teen years; and very few babies, especially neonates, could have infection of the glans or prepuce (balanitis or posthistis), and when they do, it usually results from prematurely retracting the prepuce–against the advice of all medical authorities–which damages the tissues leaving them vulnerable to infection.]

Julie Weaver, former Vice President Planning, Development and Benefit Administration, in a letter to Jody McLaughlin, 11/23/92: “Regarding circumcisions–We [the Contract Administration Committee of BlueCross BlueShield of ND] consulted with other Plans and The American Academy of Pediatrics. The majority of these entities do not have an established policy regarding circumcision.... There is recognition by these parties that this [i.e., routine infant prepuce amputation] is an elective service. Board action taken in 1987 in response to this issue provided that payment should continue to be available for circumcisions, based on individual choice [sic], in response to the market demand for this covered service.” [Emphasis added. Letter to Jody McLaughlin, 11/23/92, from Julie Weaver. No infant ever chooses to be cut.]

Julie Weaver in a letter January 16, 1995: “I admire your dedication to the issue you address....there will be no change in our policy or benefit provisions...[based] on much the same criteria noted in the letter from Dr. Fitzpatrick [namely to pay for some elective surgeries requested by consenting patients, like tubal ligations and vasectomies]. While we support efforts to educate the general public on circumcision so that thoughtful and informed decisions may be made regarding this elective procedure, we are not seeking a visible role in that process at this time...[so we] request that any reference to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota be deleted.” [Infant circumcision is forced upon nonconsenting patients, and so does not fit the analogies BlueCrossBlueShield gives to justify paying for it.] Return to Insurance Issues Page

ND Public Employees Retirement System Group Health Plan (PERS), July 1, 1993, underwritten and administered by BlueCross BlueShield of North Dakota: “You [North Dakota Public Employees] are not covered for: nonmedically necessary circumcision for newborns.”

 

     

Nurses & Professors of Nursing

         

Sister Mary Margaret Mooney, P.B.V.M, R.N., Professor and Chair, Department of Nursing, University of Mary: “I used to work with a physician who would ask a mother whether she wanted to mutilate her son. He never did any circumcisions.”  She also said the practice continues [to a large extent] because of the financial incentives. Conversation, 1992.

Connie Kalanek, MSN, RNC, Associate Professor, Medcenter College of Nursing,: “I am certainly supportive of efforts to try to stop routine circumcision. I have always regarded this procedure as repulsive and a painful experience for the neonate. I agree that the literature does not support routine circumcision of the male. It truly represents an unnecessary health care cost.”  Letter, 10/22/92.

Arlene Mack , R.N., Vice President Medcenter One, Support Services. “We will inform the parents of the risks [of circumcision].” Phone conversation, 10/3/94.

BSC student and Bismarck nurse: “I find it very hard to believe that people, including the medical profession, have been so blind to the fact that male infant circumcision is child abuse. As a student nurse I was taught that these babies feel no pain. How stupid! These doctors taught us this! These poor babies are swaddled on a restraint board and the foreskin torn away and cut off--for what? It makes me very angry to think that we as nurses, parents and the general public have been so misled.”

 

    

Government, Educational, Association
an Hospital Statements

(Also See Those Who Are Physicians and Professors)
  

          

Gladys Cairns, Director Child Protection  Services of North Dakota: “When one considers what is done to the child, it is hard not to consider this child abuse,” verbally while extending an invitation to Duane Voskuil in October 1992 to address, the Alliance for Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment, ASAPT, a statewide group of professionals from many areas concerned with sexual child abuse.

      I am already convinced that it [circumcision] is not medically necessary, that it is culturally or religiously driven....we [ASAPT] do not expect to cover the issue of circumcision as an agenda item for our task force in the foreseeable future.” Email to Jody McLaughlin, October 1998.

Susan Cordes Green, Director, Alliance for Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Fargo: “My personal hope is that the practice [infant circumcision] will be stopped.” Phone conversation with Jody McLaughlin, September 12, 1998.

Susan Cordes Green, Director, Alliance for Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Fargo, Linda Rice, ASAPT, Adult Survivor Program, Fargo and Gladys Cairns, Child Protection Services, Bismarck: “Gladys and Linda and I have talked at length about the subject. WE are all concerned about the issue, and believe that parents and physicians should receive better information. Given the choice again, I would not readily agree to have my sons circumcised. However, our major question is: Is circumcision sexual abuse? I have read and re-read the accepted definitions, and it does not meet the criteria. Sexual abuse most often involves the sexual use of a child by an adult or a minor significantly older than the child. This is done for the sexual gratification of the adult at the expense of the child. Neither physicians nor parents derive any pleasure from circumcision [Why is this assumed to be true?], and the child is certainly not sexually stimulated by the procedure [But are some cutters?]. Sexual abuse may [sic] also involve power and control linked to sexual gratification. Although circumcision involves physical restraint, the intent is not to control or punish. The intent, though perhaps misguided, is the child's welfare. Because the result may [sic] be physical and/or emotional damage, we join you in your concern....If circumcision is to be considered abuse, the appropriate category is physical abuse, not sexual abuse. For this reason, ASAPT will not be acting on the issue, but will stay informed and will keep info[rmation] available. We do commend you on your efforts, and hope that they will effect a greater awareness and increased thoughtfulness regarding this procedure.” Email to Duane Voskuil, September 10, 1998. [Physicians insulate themselves from receiving  information because  they do not want to accept the fact that they have been harming children. Many do receive pleasure from circumcision whether it is a prurient need to do to the child what was done to them, financial compensation or the desire to gain approval and appreciation for accommodating parents’ requests, or even the cultural comfort level that social conformity provides them; the child is often stimulated to erection before the cutting; and circumcision does cause physical and emotional damage.]

Janet Wentz, Republican State Legislator, Minot: “If there is no compelling reason to do a circumcision, that is a compelling reason not to do one,” verbally November 1992, responding to Roger Allen’s KMOT TV comments of November 1992 above: ("There is no compelling reason to do a circumcision, but on the other hand, there is no compelling reason not to.”).
 

       “I took my uncircumcised son to the pediatrician [T. Barry Brazelton] for his first checkup. He ripped the foreskin back while my son screamed; I felt sick. When we came back to the clinic for the next checkup, he started crying. I took my son and left, and never went back.”

Sandra Holbrook, Ph.D., Director of Equal Opportunity, NDSU in a letter to Duane Voskuil, August 2, 1993: “Thanks for your letter and for sharing the information regarding various types of sexual [genital] mutilation. This is obviously a significant gender issue....”

Mother and member of ND Board of Social Work Examiners: “My doctor told me circumcision was necessary to be clean and prevent infection, and besides, the military will do it anyway.”

State Representative Cathy Rydell, Executive Director, ND Medical Association and ND Hospital Association: “When I first worked at St. Alexius, my office was right next to the circ room. I can still remember the babies’ screams.” Conversation, November 1992.

Spokeswoman for the ND Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, appointed by the Governor: “It [circumcision] is an issue that is being discussed, but the national level has not yet taken a position, and we tend to follow them.” Conversation, 1994.

Russell Thane,  Chair, ND Senate Human Services Committee to Duane Voskuil after the committee voted unanimously to recommend passage of SB2454: “Thank you for bringing this issue [genital mutilation] to our attention. We needed to deal with this, but it is hard for us to do it.”

North Dakota SB2454, initiated by Jody McLaughlin and Duane Voskuil in a gender-neutral form (but modified to include only females by Rae Ann Kelsh), sponsored by Senators Scherber, Mathern and Watne and Representatives Kelsh and Maragos, passed by the North Dakota Legislature, March 1995 unanimously with backing from the AMA and the North Dakota Medical Association: 

"North Dakota Century Code  12.1-36-01    FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
AN ACT to prohibit female genital mutilation; and to provide a penalty.

Section 1. Surgical alternation of the genitals of females minors - Penalty - Exception. 

      1.  Except as provided in subsection 2, any person who knowingly separates or surgically alters normal, healthy functioning genital tissue of a female minor is guilty of a class C felony.

      2.  A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if a licensed medical practitioner performs the operation to correct an anatomical abnormality or to remove diseased tissue that is an immediate threat to the health of the minor. In applying this subsection, any belief that the operation is required as a matter of custom, ritual, or standard of practice may not be taken into consideration."

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Statement on Informed Consent, Parental Permission, and Assent in Pediatric Practice: >http://www.aap.org/policy/00662.html "...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 expresses. Although impasses regarding the interests of minors and the expressed wishes of their parents or guardians are rare, the pediatrician's responsibilities to his or her patient exist independent of parental desires or proxy consent ... A patient's reluctance or refusal to assent should also carry considerable weight when the proposed intervention is not essential to his or her welfare and/or can be deferred without substantial risk."  Pediatrics, Volume 95, Number 2, February, 1995, pp. 314-317.

North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners, indirectly responding to requests to declare routine infant circumcisers are following a pattern of inappropriate, and perhaps fraudulent, care, stated in their Winter 1996 issue of The Examiner: “During the last few years, the Board of Medical Examiners has repeatedly been approached by a small but committed group of individuals who would have the Board declare the practice of routine infant circumcision to be “unnecessary surgery” within the meaning of the Medical Practice Act. At this point, the Board has neither embraced nor condemned this practice. The Board’s research indicates that no other state medical board has any rule, statute, or policy statement on this point either. Nevertheless, it is a troubling and emotional issue. In the eyes of some people, routine infant circumcision is nothing less than the wholesale, unjustifiable mutilation of innocent infants by a violent society. Some people see this question as being only a medical issue but to others it is essentially a social issue and for some this practice has strong religious significance. For all of these reasons, it is the conclusion of the Board of Medical Examiners that this issue would be best debated in the state legislature.” [Since when do physicians ask legislators whether a surgical amputation is medically necessary, or even advisable? Obviously, they understand that amputating healthy, functioning, normal tissue is unnecessary, which it obviously is, since all males are born intact and 95% of the world’s male infants remain that way.]

Reporting Child Abuse: NDCC 50-25.1-03.
                   Persons required and permitted to report - To whom reported.

1. Any physician, nurse, dentist, optometrist, medical examiner or coroner, or any other medical or mental health professional, religious practitioner of the healing arts, schoolteacher or administrator, school counselor, addiction counselor, social worker, day care center or any other child care worker, police or law enforcement officer, or member of the clergy having knowledge of or reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected, or has died as a result of abuse or neglect, shall report the circumstances to the department if the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received by that person in that person's official or professional capacity. A member of the clergy, however, is not required to report such circumstances if the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received in the capacity of spiritual adviser.
2. Any person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected, or has died as a result of abuse or neglect, may report such circumstances to the department.

Edward T. Schafer, Governor of North Dakota in letter to Jody McLaughlin, February 26, 1996: “It is my understanding that no state medical board has concluded that routine infant circumcision constitutes an inappropriate medical procedure or unnecessary surgery. If it is your opinion that routine infant circumcision is inappropriate, you may go to the Legislature and ask them to specifically provide legislation to prohibit the procedure. North Dakota law does not specifically provide that such surgery is unnecessary, unethical, or inappropriate.” [The NDBME has not said amputating healthy prepuces is an appropriate surgery. However, by saying it is something that can be appropriately debated on nonmedical grounds they have implicitly said circumcisers are not performing a necessary healthcare procedure. The legislature has already given the NDBME responsibility to determine whether procedures are medically “unnecessary, unethical or inappropriate.” When will they fulfill this appointed duty?]  

 

MERITCARE HEALTH SYSTEM
PATIENT BILL OF RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES

from: >http://www.meritcare.com/guidebook/billofrights

It is the policy of MeritCare Health System to support and care for all patients in a manner and in an environment that promotes quality of life with emphasis placed on dignity, choice and self-determination. In addition, MeritCare will strive to protect and promote patients' rights and responsibilities without interference, coercion or discrimination.

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:

*    Receive kind and courteous care.
*    Receive treatment and services consistent with acceptable professional standards of practice.
*    Have a family member or representative of your choice and your own physician notified promptly of your admission to the hospital.
*    Make informed decisions about your care by:
*    being informed of your health status,
*    being involved in care planning and treatment, and
*    being able to request or refuse treatment.
*    This right should not be used as a way to demand treatments or services deemed medically unnecessary or inappropriate....

 

 

    

Attorneys and Judges  
 
 

            

Roger J. Minch, Attorney, Fargo, letter, September 27, 1992: “The law does not allow one to mutilate another without consent, and the law, on its face, cannot discriminate between the sexes. However, the law often blindly follows custom and usage without much reflection.”  He was responding in a to a question about the legalities of amputating a healthy prepuce without consent and whether a parent or physicians could do the same thing to a female.

Thomas A. Mayer, Assistant Attorney General of North Dakota, January 12, 1993: “In connection with routine male infant circumcisions, the criminal elements of assault are lacking. There is no purpose to intentionally or knowingly cause bodily injury. Thus, criminal culpability is absent [for the physician]. It is assumed there is informed consent to the surgery.

      “‘Parents, guardians, and custodians are authorized to consent to health care on behalf of children.’ N.D.C.C. Sec. 23-11-13.”

      “Circumcision may also be performed for religious or cultural reasons. In this respect, it may be more akin to elective plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes. Arguably, such surgery does not in many instances serve any medical [i.e. health care] need. This fact would not warrant reporting elective cosmetic surgery under N.D.C.C. Sec. 43-17-41. Presently in our culture a routine male infant circumcision does not violate any North Dakota criminal statute.” Emphasis added. Mayer was responding to questions (though not to “be considered as a formal legal position of this office”) about culpability of physicians (and others) who perform non-medically indicated surgery on non-consenting  male or female children. [He does not make clear how a surgery that does not “serve any medical need,” and which is not elected by the patient, can be legally forced on a nonconsenting individual. Is he also saying in the first paragraph that a physician can remove or alter any body part on children if a parent signs a consent form?]

Heidi Heitkamp, Attorney General, State of ND, after a talk at the Unitarian Universalist fellowship, 1994, where she outlined her work to prevent child abuse and violent children: “It won’t do any good talking to me about it [routine infant circumcision].”  [She was asked whether the violence of circumcision could be one factor causing violence in children, since it is common knowledge that those who are violated, violate others.]

Rolf P. Sletten, Commission Secretary, responding to Ramona Goheen’s formal complaint (see below) that Manuel Neto, M.D., injured her son’s genitals and wanted to circumcise him even thought he had hypospadies, a textbook reason not to circumcise: “This is to advise you that the Commission on Medical Competency has completed its investigation regarding your experience with Dr. Neto....In this case the Commission has determined that the circumstances do not give rise to a disciplinary action under current North Dakota law.” Letter, October 3, 1994.

Patrick A. Conmy, District Judge, U.S. District Court, upon dismissing a suit, based on the U.S. Constitutional equal protection provisions, against the State of N.D. for passing a law that protects females but not males: “Finally, the court notes that this battle over routine male infant circumcision is one for the education of new parents and for the legislatures of this country--not the courts.” [What were the courts doing in all the other civil rights cases?  The courts’ first duty must be to speak for, and protect, those who are not powerful enough to enforce equal protection for themselves.]  

 

    

Religious Leaders
    

        

Robert Lynne, Former Bishop ELCA, in an interview fall 1992: “The Lutheran Church has no rite of circumcision.”

 John F. Kinney, former Bishop Bismarck Diocese, who chairs a national committee to investigate sexual abuse by priests, said in a phone conversation, fall 1992: “The Roman Catholic Church has taken no stand on circumcision.”

Bismarck Lutheran minister: “People don’t ask pastors about circumcision. The doctors have become society’s high priests.” Conversation, 1992.  

   

Other Citizens 
 
 

           

Renee Bergstrom, psychologist and health educator now living in Minnesota, speaking out publicly for the first time, and videotaped, at the Third International Symposium on Circumcision, University of Maryland, Washington DC, May 1994:  “I was born and raised on a farm in South Dakota (to very loving parents), and when I was three years old, my mother who was concerned about the fact that I was masturbating (she had read some place that it was the ultimate sin), took me to a doctor in a clinic in [Wahpeton] North Dakota, who took me to a hospital in [Breckenridge] Minnesota and removed my clitoris. My mother was at the end of the table. I remember the pain, and I also remember knowing that I couldn’t trust her any more....”  [Emphasis added.] She went on to explain how the clitoridectomy has ruined much of her life, and how clergy, counselors and physicians have been no comfort. Please do not contact her for an interview without conferring with Duane Voskuil first.]

Ramona T. Goheen, in a letter, September 3, 1994, to the North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners: “I brought my son in to get Dr. Neto’s opinion on surgery regarding his hypospadias. He said that my son did not need reconstructive surgery to the urinary hole, but should be circumcised so he, ‘Doesn’t get picked on by other boys because he won’t be urinating straight.’ He also stated that ‘He won’t learn as well in school if he doesn’t get circumcised’....He forcibly retracted the foreskin without my permission causing it to redden, bleed, and swell, causing extreme pain to my son. I said to him, ‘ I thought you were supposed to leave it (the foreskin) alone,’ while he was doing this, but he still proceeded to force it back even after I said this. He gave no explanation for forcibly retracting the foreskin from the glans. If anyone else would have done that to my son, I would have them arrested.” [See Rolf Sletten’s  NDBME’s reply above under “Attorneys”.]  

Female Minot High School student after watching the suffering during three circumcisions in a local hospital as part of a career orientation course in nursing: "There must be a very important reason for doing this!"

A mother after learning routine circumcision is not medically necessary: "I now know why my son who is 28, married, in college in Utah asked me about why I did this to him. I couldn’t understand why he even brought the topic up. Now I know...."

25-year-old Fargo business man when asked whether he was circumcised: "I don’t know."

A North Dakotan raised as a Jew: "I don’t think I would circumcise my sons." A year later he became the proud father of an intact son.
  

    

North Dakota College Students
 
 

          

Mother and student: "I have to tell you that I feel just awful for circumcising my son. I really did think that I was doing him a big favor....This is really hard for me to handle. I can’t imagine how other people feel, when they don’t even know why they had them circumcised. I honestly thought I was doing him a favor. I would now wait until he was old enough, to see if he even had a problem with it....I feel I owe my son an apology when he gets older."

"The film was the first time I actually knew exactly what they do when a baby is circumcised. The crying was so bad and just to know that doctors would do such things to a little baby for no [medical] reason is so sick! Just watching and listening to this film made my stomach turn!"

"The tape was an eye opener and a stomach turner. I definitely would want both my husband and me to have to be informed before making any decisions." "The film I feel was rough to watch but it was worth seeing."

"I don’t see why such a big fuss is made about circumcision. Women suffer all the time. Their hymen is ripped; they have pain in birth; hot flashes in menopause, etc. Men should have some pain too." Female BSC student who two months later changed her mind when her girl friend had a baby boy.

Mother and student: "I didn’t have my son circumcised and the doctor gave me a hard time for years....He said the military will do it anyway."

Pre-med student: "My boy friend won’t marry me unless I agree to circumcise our sons."

"The substitute doctor walked into the room, said he had just mutilated my child and walked out. I wish he had talked to me before he did it, if he felt that pained about it."

"Do medical staff get into trouble for trying to inform parents further about circumcision?" [Yes.]

Female BSC student: "I was so ignorant that when the doctor asked me about doing the surgery, I had never really understood what they even did. I would never have even thought to ask for this surgery. She [the nurse with the consent form to sign] came to me. I guess I had only seen circumcised males and didn’t even recognized they were circumcised."

"No one has the right to do genital mutilations on children. If you were born with it, then let be. I just can’t understand why would any one want to torture someone that way for no medical reason at all." Male student.

"I think hospitals should show this film [on infant male circumcision] to parents before they perform the circumcision."

"Have you ever suggested that it be shown during Lamaze classes?"

"The videos were hard to watch but very necessary to give informed consent for the procedures."

BSC ethics student, November 1994: Watching the FGM was even worse the 2nd time...because I knew what was coming. The MGM was bad. I couldn’t believe it. That baby goes through hell. I can’t believe what I put my son through. No wonder he was crying so hard when they brought him to me. He went through hell. I’m glad you made this video available for us to watch...."

“I was too shocked after watching the video [on infant male circumcision] to be able to write anything coherent on my [daily 3x5] card. But that night, at home, I told my husband about the videos and asked him, ‘Why do you still see fit to perform circumcision?’ (He is a doctor, and that is [one thing] he does for a living.) Our own two boys are not circumcised.... But when I asked him that night after watching the video, ‘What good do you as a person and doctor see in this procedure,’ he told me, ‘The good I see is that it does reduce sensitivity, [and] the full force of sexual drive. Man is not [meant] to be subjected to the full force of his sexual drives, but instead to God.’ What he was talking about is Paul and his advices about sexuality (being sinful, of course). Well, then I asked him, ‘What is wrong with being sexual? We are supposed to be, otherwise, God would not have seen fit to give us such a drive.’ He insisted that it is the purpose [for sex] that matters. As ‘Godly’ beings we are called to transform it into something higher. Sexuality for him is ‘lower’ and ‘lesser,’ and that the purpose of it is just offspring, not on its own a joy. I guess what I am sharing is this: I’ve discovered, through this topic of yours in class, a can of worms. In a few years I might not remember Anaximenes, but I will my husband’s remarks...!’ Thanks.” [This quotation shows the close tie that can exist between personal religious beliefs and the use of medical facilities for ritual purposes.

"I was shocked at how cruel circumcision is."

Male student, 1995: "When I first found out about circumcision, I heard that is was done as part of a religious practice. I didn’t really understand this at that time. When I got older I found it is still a very common practice. I asked my mother about it, and she said it is something little boys have done [to them] when they are born. I found this extremely disturbing. She said it was for hygiene. The thoughts I had about this [comment on cleanliness] was: What happened before anyone thought of circumcision? Did every male’s organ just get diseased and fall off? I found this absurd. It couldn’t just happen. I felt very angry for a long time about this misjustice: Feeling that you can be violated as a child in a way you couldn’t even imagine was possible, until you learn about it." [Is it already too late to save the medical profession’s prestige and legal culpability?]

Female pre-med student to Dr. Voskuil: "I would like to know something, O.K. Now I understand the concern, but if it has been going on for so many years, and it is so bad, then why has it gone on? I mean how can you know so much when our own doctors don’t know that much? How can you say this has to be stopped? You can’t know everything, yes?! Now, I’m not questioning your IQ. It just seems weird that if this was so painful & and hurtful that it would have gone on for so long. Plus, where do you think the doctors get their information? If not from medical school, then where? It is hard to believe doctors hurting patients for $200 or so. They are suppose to know how to heal--that’s what they are taught." [When will the North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners answer this woman’s questions?]

"I think, as a mother of two boys and a wife, [circumcision] is a good thing to discuss. I found out things today I as a mother was never told. There are harms that last the child’s whole life. I have to truly say I’m pissed off I didn’t hear these things from my doctor. Maybe, I would have not have had it done to my baby boys, if I would have known half of this!" [Perhaps the reason she didn’t hear these things has to do with the silence of our watchdog boards. Are they legally negligent because she did not hear?]

Female student, 1996: "When I was entering puberty and seeing what "normal" [i.e., cut] penises look like, I thought something was seriously wrong with my dad (who is not circumcised) whom I had often seen nude as a child. I was also afraid something was wrong with me because of this. Years later, when I found out why my dad was different, and that he was normal, I was quite relieved for him and myself—but didn’t understand why these other boys had this done—and I probably never fully will understand....Circumcision is a subject I feel very strongly about."

Dear Mr. Voskuil.  You recently came to our college to educate us on circumcisions, male and female, and why they should be stopped.
I am behind you 100% because I had this cruel surgery performed on my two sons. Both were done for "'hygienic" reasons and my second son's circ. was not performed "'properly" and had to be medically corrected after he turned one year of age. He is permanently scarred. Both my babies screamed and cried from the pain in an IHS [Indian Health Service] hospital. I pray they will lead healthy and productive lives as they grow older.
What I want to know is where the hell was all this information nine years ago when my first son was born?!! I am so sorry my first two babies went through this unnecessary procedure but never will my future babies experience this torture.
Thank you for educating me when no other would.
Signed: Mother of three, 2 boys and 1 girl , and United Tribes Technical College , Criminal Justice Student. April 6, 1996

 

    

Our Thanks
 
 

       

We want to express our appreciation to the many people who have written or talked to us about the need to stop unnecessary male and female genital surgeries even though the present taboo around the subject makes it difficult for them to speak out.  

If you find yourself quoted above and do not believe the quotation is accurate, or if you have changed your mind on what you believe regarding this issue, please contact us so we can correct and update the list. If you want to be added to the list, please give us your comments in writing: NoCircND/Genital Integrity, P.O. Box 3154, Minot ND 58602-3154 or by email, Duane Voskuil or Jody McLaughlin.

 

 

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