A story had recently been in the news about a young mother who reported a botched circumcision on her 3-month-old son. Since Andrena had recently given birth to her little girl, this story touched her and warranted discussion. Due to the lack of information contained in the stories that we looked at on-line, I could not directly comment on this case. So instead we spent most of the time discussing how best to advocate for ourselves and/or our loved ones when a surgical procedure is required.
Yes, circumcision, the removal of the foreskin of the penis, is indeed a surgical procedure. It happens to be one of the most common procedures performed in newborn males in the U.S., but it is surgery. There may be religious or cultural reasons a family may elect to proceed with circumcision but the health benefits of circumcision are debated, so it is an elective procedure. And there are certain conditions, such as hypospadias – a birth defect that results in the positioning of the urethra in the incorrect place, where circumcision is not recommended.
For any surgery, and particularly for any elective surgery, here are a few steps to consider.
- Talk with the doctor who is going to perform the procedure about the risks and benefits. Not a nurse, or a social worker, or a person who sits at the front desk. Speak directly with the surgeon.
- Ask how many of this same exact procedure the surgeon has already performed. Don’t be shy about it – ask the question. You’d ask a mechanic how many engines he’s rebuilt before letting him or her rebuild yours.
- Is the procedure the only treatment available? If not, what other options are there, both surgical and non-surgical?
- Understand what the post-operative period will look like. Will there be much pain? How do I care for the surgical site? Any restrictions?
- Meet with the doctor to discuss how the procedure went.
- Review how to how to manage pain, how to care for any wounds, and review any restrictions in diet or activity.
- Know what number to call in case of an emergency.
If you don't feel comfortable asking the questions, bring a friend or family member with you who does!
But please remember, there are risks to every medical treatment, even in the hands of the most experienced doctor.
The best way to advocate for ourselves is to be an informed consumer.
~ One drop of knowledge can ripple through an entire community.