chapter  17
14 Pages

The prepuce

ByKim AR Hutton

The history of circumcision has been well documented, with evidence of the practice dating back to ancient Egypt during the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (2345-2181 BC). Although approximately one-third of English boys underwent ‘routine’ circumcision in infancy in the 1930s, this number has since dwindled to negligible proportions. In the UK, circumcision for nonmedical reasons is now virtually confined to those faiths in which ritual circumcision is required to comply with religious beliefs. By contrast, newborn circumcision remains culturally entrenched, regardless of religious faith in the United States, although the legitimacy of this practice is being increasingly challenged. The number of ‘medical’ circumcisions in children performed in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has declined progressively over the last three decades. For example, whereas NHS data for England recorded that 18 500 circumcisions were performed in boys aged 0-16 in 1994/1995, the figure fell over the ensuing decade to 10 000 in 2004/2005. This striking reduction in the number of circumcisions occurred almost entirely in district general hospitals and almost certainly reflects fewer unnecessary circumcisions being undertaken by adult surgeons.