Chris Fletcher, M.D.

We went ahead and did 'em without any question. The scenario-- it was interesting-- in many hospitals it was that you'd line 'em up and just do 'em in an assembly-line fashion.

I remember having to do one on [for] a woman who was eighteen years old, had her third child, had no teeth because she'd allowed 'em to rot and had false teeth, chain smoked, drank and did cocaine during her pregnancy, had this premature baby come out at thirty-one/thirty-two weeks that was, like, two pounds ten ounces or something, and after nurturing it through the intensive-care aspect of the first month, she said, "Well you have to circumcise it." And I went, "This thing is too little! You can't do this. Why're you gonna be cruel?" 'Nope, gotta do it.' And because she had the authority, we had to give in; and that didn't look too good, and it didn't feel good doing it and it did not-- that particular event didn't have any complications, but it dind't feel right.

It's considered a social custom that an operator is performing. It's not really for medical reasons, because the parents are the issue. The doctors'll say, "It's because the parents wanted it done." The parents, on the other hand, say, "Well, the doctor did it when we asked him..." So, there' sthis collusion that continues, and that's why we still do it because the doctor's aren't... Too many of 'em are weanies: They just won't say, "I'm not gonna do it anymore; it's illegitemate. I refuse to participate in this procedure. It's not medical." But we don't have enough doctors saying that.

And then, I'd gotten several dozen, I guess, under my belt, so to speak and I didn't feel good about any of 'em-- I didn't like it, but I did 'em-- and I always was very precise about everything I did. I did electron microscopy research, so I was used to very precision movements with little buttons and gears and things. And so a circumcision to me was a very precise thing. And yet you never could get it precise! It just didn't work that way.

So I was doing one on this baby and he started bleeding. And he bled and bled and bled and I was panicking...
You did 'em in a -- in a locked room which was very dark with a lamp, and it was somewhat sound-proofed and it was away from the nursery so nobody could hear. And it was sort of this weird behavior that you went through where nobody was watching-- and you didn't have a nurse you just did 'em because you were a Resident: You could do anything by yourself.
So this baby started bleeding and I called for help and the attending-- Family Practice attending-- came by and he says, "I don't know what's going on...," he says, "This blood vessel shouldn't be thre..." So we called in a pediatrician and he says, "I don't know any more than you do. What's going on?" [We] called in a urologist-- this was all within the space of 10 minutes-- and the urologist said, "Well this blood vessel doesn't exist in this part of the penis, normally." You know, he didn't know what was going on. We called in a plastic surgeon. We finally had to transfuse the baby. This was five doctors sitting around this six-pound, screaming, bleeding infant, trying to stop the blood loss, and we finally got it clamped (and I'm sure we made a mess of it). You know, we never told the mom?! Never told her anything except, 'Why is my baby getting blood?' "Well you know he lost a little blood during the circumcision, but no big deal." And that was what you did to cover up these things and it still goes on; it hasn't changed. That was in, probably, 1981.

And the nurse sitting next to me at the Newborn Nursery counter was holding this crying screaming boy [who] had been circumcised and she said, "Um, would you look at this and tell me what you think?" I said, "Well, its not my patient, but I guess..." So I looked and this baby had been skinned. The entire foreskin and the skin of the shaft of the penis had been taken down to the abdomen. So he'd lost his entire penile skin which is an automatic lawsuit, automatic malpractice, there's no question about it. It's horrible; its a poor operatior; its a stupid scneario; it should never occur. So I said, "Well, you know this..." She said, "That's what I thought happened." And I said, "Well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? The whole penis is bleeding. There's no skin all the way to the root of the penis (the abdomen)." It had been taken all the way off. This'll be a scarred-up boy for life. There's nothing you can do to make this be any way normal; it's not a normal circumcised penis, it's an AB-normal circumcised penis. Forever.

Well, over the years I've evolved from [to] saying, "Well I'm not going to do this; I don't do these anymore," which was an easy thing to say, after a while. And it felt good."

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