117 Deaths from Circumcision?

In 2010, Dr. Dan Bollinger, who came up with the infant mortality rate of 117 deaths from hospital circumcisions in the United States each year, wrote an article in the journal Thymos. Soon afterwards, a scientist from Great Britain, challenged the results of Bollinger’s research. Following are some of the facts and issues that question that statement.

Inaccurate and far too high

For a detailed analysis of why this number is flawed and too high, read this blog article that explained why in detail:
Fatally flawed: Bollinger’s circumcision death calculations

One reason the number is inaccurate is because it is based only on hospital circumcisions, all done within a few days of the infant’s birth. But many circumcisions, especially religious ones, are done after an infant leaves the hospital, including after he and his mother have had time to have a secure mother-infant bonding. They are also done when there is more time to detect physical problems that can preclude an infant from having a routine circumcision, especially with a day or two of his birth. Thus, the number 117 fails to say anything about those circumcisions.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, is that this number 117, or even 100, is exceedingly high, according to several highly reputable sources. These include the committee of physicians from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), which did a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies, including mortality rates on circumcisions. It also includes studies on infant mortality that are published in a shorter report, on the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s website. Other experts on infant mortality put the rate of mortality from circumcision at between 0 and 3 per hundreds of thousands of circumcisions. This is based on a study that showed zero (0) deaths in 100,000 U.S. infant circumcisions, and another study that found a mortality rate of 1 death in 500,000 circumcisions. Given that there are 1.3 million male infant circumcisions in the U.S., that would put the morality rate at 0 to 2.5; not 100 to 117.

In short, there are ways to reduce infant mortality from circumcision, basically to ensure a medically safer circumcision that includes: only using an experienced circumciser with medical training and medical certification, who uses only sterile equipment and, preferably, does the circumcision in a sterile environment, and who will only perform an elective (non-medical) circumcision on a truly healthy infant. And note that a circumcision can be postponed a week, several weeks and even a few months, after birth. This gives the mother and child time to bond, as well as giving time to detect medical problems that would put the child at risk if circumcised. It would also reduce the exceedingly high mortality rate of 117 – even if it were accurate!