The History of Circumcision in the United States

A Physician’s Perspective
  • Morris L. Sorrells


For most of its existence, the United States, with its overwhelmingly Protestant population of Northern-European descent, has had no tradition or history of circumcision. Medicalised circumcision did not appear until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when some members of the American medical establishment began to believe that circumcision could cure such wide-ranging real and fictitious diseases as insanity, masturbation, epilepsy, paralysis, hernia, hip-joint disease, tuberculosis, cancer, venereal disease, and headache, to name just a few. The belief in circumcision as a panacea has continued to this day, and the list of diseases that circumcision is said to prevent and cure has increased and changed to meet evolving national anxieties. As a result of the accumulated weight of these beliefs, a programme of universal, neonatal circumcision was instituted in many American hospitals during the Cold War era.


Penile Cancer Urologic Complication Medical Guide Sexual Sensation American Doctor 
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© Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, New York 1999

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  • Morris L. Sorrells

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