A Nurse With a Conscience

A Chicago nurse describes the horror and insanity of hospital circumcisions. She told me that babies cry for days afterwards. She said, “Complications occur frequently…. Very few babies lie there quietly sucking on their pacifier. Most of them are screaming. I don’t want to watch it. I was asked to learn to do the procedure, and I said, ‘No, there’s no way I would do this.’ She told me off-camera that it was often the fathers demanding the surgery, and she witnessed them arguing with the new mothers about it. The fathers usually won the argument.

Patricia’s intact grandson is two years old, “never a problem,” she said. It was her information that persuaded his parents to keep him intact. She was horrified by the idea of forced retraction, and well aware of proper care of an intact baby. Please warn your own friends to educate themselves. They can’t rely on the doctors or the hospital, or even the nurses, for this vital information. Your Whole Baby has excellent basic care instructions at http://www.yourwholebaby.org/basic-in…

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A Feminist Nursing Critique of Circumcision

Nurse Kira Antinuk gives a feminist critique and her perspective on circumcision as well as her 13-year long involvement in the movement to promote equal genital autonomy for all children.

 

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INTERNATIONAL NURSES GROUP URGES NURSES TO CONSCIENTIOUSLY OBJECT

11 JUNE 2015

For immediate release

Nurses for the Rights of the Child supports the genital autonomy rights of Chase Hironimus, a healthy 4.5 year old boy from Florida, USA. Chase’s human rights are in jeopardy following a bitter family court dispute surrounding a parenting agreement which was drawn up after Chase was born. This parenting agreement included the option for a medically unnecessary circumcision desired by the father. The circumcision was not performed during Chase’s infancy. Later, his mother Heather researched circumcision and became aware that it was not medically recommended and that it had risks generally and specifically with regard to her son, who had reacted adversely to anesthetic in the past and who develops keloids. Heather was imprisoned until she agreed to sign a circumcision consent form, which she did while bound in handcuffs and crying. Nurses for the Rights of the Child condemns the actions of Judge Jeffrey Gillen on this matter and notes that this forced consent was done under duress, which is unacceptable and contrary to the principles of informed consent.

We call on nurses who may be asked to assist with the proposed circumcision of Chase to demonstrate moral courage by taking conscientious objector status.

The Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) supports nurses’ rights to conscientious objection and recommends that every institution have a written policy protecting these rights and making reasonable accommodations for nurses with such objections. It also says that taking a conscientious objector position “…should not jeopardize a nurse’s employment, nor should nurses be subjected to harassment due to such a refusal.”

The Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses in Canada states: “Ethical (or moral) courage is exercised when a nurse stands firm on a point of moral principle or a particular decision about something in the face of overwhelming fear or threat to himself or herself. [… T]he nurse should discuss with supervisors, [or] employers […] what types of care she or he finds contrary to his or her own beliefs and values (e.g., caring for individuals having an abortion, male circumcision, blood transfusion, organ transplantation) and request that his or her objections be accommodated, unless it is an emergency situation”.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Performing an action that violates one’s conscience undermines one’s sense of integrity and self-respect and produces guilt, remorse, or shame. Integrity is valuable, and harms associated with the loss of self-respect should be avoided.”

If you are a nurse in moral distress about assisting with Chase’s proposed circumcision or any non-therapeutic circumcision, please contact Nurses for the Rights of the Child . We can assist you with resources and support regarding conscientious objection and refer you to legal support if needed.

You are not alone.

____________________________________________________

Nurses for the Rights of the Child is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of infants and children to bodily integrity.  As health professionals, we specifically seek to protect non-consenting infants and children from surgical alteration of their healthy genitals.

Nurses for the Rights of the Child was founded in June of 1995 by a group of nurses who had become R.N. Conscientious Objectors to infant circumcision at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read the story of the courageous nurses of St.Vincent Hospital here.

Our work includes:

  • Empowering, supporting, and advising nurses who want to help stop the genital cutting of infants and children, whether as conscientious objectors or as change agents.
  • Advocating for babies and children by educating the public that the forced amputation of a healthy body part of a non-consenting person – whether in the name of medicine, religion, or social custom – is a human rights violation.
  • Providing information to parents and parents-to-be about circumcision and the intact penis.
  • Educating health professionals about circumcision, the intact penis, and the ethics of neonatal circumcision, and promoting curriculum change in the training of health professionals.
  • Taking leadership in cooperating with others working in this country and abroad to promote the rights of children to bodily integrity.
  • Promoting the human rights principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

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GENITAL AUTONOMY 2014

The 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights
“Whole Bodies, Whole Selves: Activating Social Change”
University of Colorado – Boulder, CO
July 24-26, 2014
To register please go to our website at: http://www.genitalautonomy2014.com/
Detailed program information coming soon!
Please also visit our Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/400707260032181/

 

From international experts, you will learn about:
 
  • Laws protecting the rights of infants and children
  • The complications and consequences of human genital mutilations
  • The psychological sequela of genital cutting
  • The importance of protecting all children–male, female, and intersex–from non-therapeutic genital cutting
  • Cultural practices and cultural changes
  • Global efforts to promote genital autonomy for all infants and children
 And, you will see these films:
 
  • Intersexion
  • The Hidden Trauma: Circumcision in America (in production)
  • American Secret: The Circumcision Agenda (in production)
 Upon completion of this program, you will understand:
 
  • How laws protecting children’s rights are applied to genital cutting
  • How to provide expectant and new parents with accurate information
  • Ways in which to offer help to survivors of genital cutting
  • Global activities with regard to protecting genital autonomy rights of infants and children
  • The importance of raising awareness to include the rights of infants and children to their own bodies
 Continuing Education Credit
 
  • Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number CEP 10870 for 22 contact hours.
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Canadian student nurse Kira Antinuk wins ethics award

Kira Antinuk discusses events that prompted her to research circumcision and then pursue a nursing career. Antinuk’s essay, “Forced genital cutting in North America: Feminist theory and nursing considerations” was published in the September issue (20: 723-728) of Nursing Ethics. She was the winner of the Paul Wainwright Nursing Ethics Student Essay Prize 2013!

Kira is Nursing Director for the Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership:

http://chhrp.org

and CHHRP’s YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CHHRP

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Genital Autonomy being recognized in Europe

In recent weeks, several major events acknowledging a child’s right to genital autonomy occurred in Europe. Nurses for the Rights of the Child applauds these efforts to protect the fundamental human rights of children and extend our gratitude to the growing number of individuals around the world who are working to end forced genital cutting.

On September 30, 2013, a prominent group of Nordic ombudsmen, pediatricians, and pediatric surgeons met in Oslo to sign a resolution urging their national governments to protect boys from non-therapeutic circumcision.

“As ombudsmen for children and experts in children’s health we consider circumcision of underage boys without a medical indication to be in conflict with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 12, about children’s right to express their views about their own matters, and article 24, pt. 3, which says that children must be protected against traditional rituals that may be harmful to their health. … We consider it central that parental rights in this matter do not have precedence over children’s right to bodily integrity.”

http://www.arclaw.org/news/exciting-news-norway-five-nordic-childrens-ombudsmen-pass-resolution-work-ban-non-therapeutic-c

On October 1, 2013, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution by an overwhelming majority which categorized non-therapeutic circumcision as a “violation of the physical integrity of children.” It called on its forty-seven member states to take educational, legislative, and policy measures toward protecting the best interests of the child in regard to male, female, and intersex genital cutting practices.

http://www.arclaw.org/announcements/more-good-news-europe-council-europe-condemns-male-circumcision

On October 10, 2013, the Nordic Association for Clinical Sexology endorsed the above two resolutions. Expressing their concern about the human rights aspects associated with the practice of non-therapeutic circumcision of young boys, they conclude,

“unless there are compelling medical reasons to operate before a boy reaches an age and a level of maturity at which he is capable of providing informed consent, the decision to alter the appearance, sensitivity, and functionality of the penis should be left to its owner, thus upholding his fundamental rights to protection and bodily integrity.”

http://www.arclaw.org/news/more-good-news-nordic-sexology-association-upholds-childrens-right-bodily-integrity

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Genital autonomy and human rights at the Victoria Pride Festival

Nursing students Breanna de Groot, Emily Gage and Kira Antinuk bring the discussion of genital autonomy and human rights to visitors of the Victoria Pride Festival.

Kira Antinuk is one of the founders of The Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership (CHHRP), Canada’s first dedicated not-for-profit partnership of medical, legal, and ethics professionals working alongside concerned citizens towards ending forced non-therapeutic genital cutting of children in Canada.

http://chhrp.org

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Registered nurse Robbie T, RN (Rob Tsvetkov, RN) speaks out against circumcision

While training to be a registered nurse Robbie T, RN (Rob Tsvetkov, RN) witnessed a baby boy’s healthy penis being cut (circumcised). So disgusted by what he saw he has since worked to educate parents on the functions of the foreskin, and the harm of circumcision.

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THE 2012 HELSINKI DECLARATION OF THE RIGHT OF GENITAL AUTONOMY

Nurses for the Rights of the Child endorses the 2012 Helsinki Declaration of the Right of Genital Autonomy:

THE 2012 HELSINKI DECLARATION OF THE RIGHT OF GENITAL AUTONOMY

Whereas it is the fundamental and inherent right of each human being to security of the person without regard to age, sex, gender, ethnicity or religion as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Now we declare the existence of a fundamental right of each human being a Right of Genital Autonomy, that is the right to:

* personal control of their own genital and reproductive organs; and
* protection from medically unnecessary genital modification and other irreversible
reproductive interventions.

We declare that consistent with the Right of Genital Autonomy the only person who may consent to medically unnecessary genital modification and other irreversible reproductive interventions is:

* in the case of a person who is competent to give free and informed consent, being fully informed about the nature, the risks and benefits of the intervention – the person undergoing the intervention; and
* in the case of an incompetent person including a young child – only a properly constituted public authority or tribunal appointed to balance the human rights and the best interests of the person after considering the views of family members, professionals and an independent advocate for the person.

We recognise the fundamental right of parents and guardians to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Those rights of parents and guardians are not absolute, they are limited by the same fundamental human rights of others, in particular their children.

We declare that healthy genital and reproductive organs are natural, normal, functional parts of the human body. Governments and healthcare providers have a duty to educate parents and children about non-invasive hygiene, care of genital and reproductive organs, and to explain their anatomical and physiological development and function.

We encourage and support further research into the adverse consequences of such interventions.

We oppose research and experimentation that involves the performance of medically unnecessary modification and other irreversible medical interventions affecting genital and reproductive organs upon non-consenting children and adults.

We call on all governments to acknowledge the Right of Genital Autonomy for every child and adult, that is the right to:

* personal control of their own genital and reproductive organs; and
* protection from unnecessary genital modification and other irreversible                  reproductive interventions.

We call on all States members to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to honour their commitments under that instrument in particular Articles 2, 12, 14, 19, and 24.

Done at Helsinki, Wednesday 3 October 2012

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Revised male infant circumcision policy: A disservice to Americans

September 22, 2012

Dr. Christopher L. Guest, Co-Founder of the Children’s Health and Human Rights Partnership replies to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised statement on male infant circumcision calling itA disservice to Americans”. His reply was published to the AAP’s on-line journal. View journal posting here.

Revised male infant circumcision policy: A disservice to Americans

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised statement on male infant circumcision claims “the benefits of circumcision may exceed the risk of complications” but the AAP fails to recognize the sensory and mechanical function of the human foreskin. The foreskin is richly innervated, erogenous tissue which enhances sexual pleasure and it also provides a unique, linear gliding mechanism during sexual intercourse. In 2009, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia stated “the foreskin is rich in specialized sensory nerve endings.” In 2010, the Royal Australian College of Physicians stated “the foreskin is a primary sensory part of the penis, containing some of the most sensitive areas of the penis” and in the same year, the Royal Dutch Medical Association concluded “the foreskin is a complex erotogenic structure that plays an important role in the mechanical function of the penis during sexual acts.” The AAP statement fails to consider the obstinate relationship between structure and function as it pertains to the foreskin; circumcision alters the structure of the penis which inevitably alters function. The long term harm and sexual side effects of circumcision have not been adequately studied.

The revised statement also claims “circumcision may decrease the risk of heterosexual HIV transmission” and is supported with selective evidence from randomized control trials from Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. These trials reveal a number of methodological weaknesses and they contradict larger demographic trends in global HIV prevalence. For instance, the United States has a high prevalence of circumcision, yet has a significantly higher rate of HIV infection compared with countries like Sweden and Japan where the prevalence of circumcision is very low. Behavioural factors greatly overshadow any potential protective effect of circumcision and should be the focus of effective and ethical prevention strategies. Even if the African trials were scientifically valid, the evidence can not be applied to justify infant circumcision in North America where the incidence of heterosexual HIV transmission is low.

The revised statement also claims “circumcision may decrease the risk of urinary tract infections” yet the AAP ignores the wealth of international medical evidence to the contrary. Even if circumcision provided complete protection against urinary tract infections, this practice could never be justified based on the ethical principle of proportionality – there are effective and less destructive therapies available for preventing and treating urinary tract infections which do not involve the prophylactic removal of healthy genital tissue.

The AAP’s revised statement ignores the inherent conflict of circumcision with contemporary medical ethics. Infant circumcision violates the fundamental ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence and primum non nocere. Medical associations in the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and other countries have stated that there is no justification for performing the procedure without medical urgency. Medical associations in these countries are calling for the practice to stop due to ethical and human rights concerns. The AAP’s new position statement does a disservice to American parents and children.

Respectfully, Christopher L. Guest M.D., F.R.C.P.C.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

 

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