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Does a leaked audio clip show that the AAP lied?

November 28, 2017 The creator of an anti-circumcision documentary claimed that the American Academy of Pediatrics lied about the effects of circumcision. Brendon Marotta, who wrote and directed “American Circumcision,” alleged that a "leaked audio" clip shows that AAP doctors knew that circumcision reduces sexual pleasure, contrary to the AAP Task Force Policy Statement.

According to Marotta, “at a private meeting featuring members of the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision, a moderator states circumcision does reduce sensitivity, and that ‘reduction of sensation is very valuable to many men’ because it might allow them to last longer in bed.'” [1]

The audio is said to be from a 2013 Pitts Lectureship in Medical Ethics. Dr. Robert M. Sade has been identified as the panelist who made the controversial remarks. Sade discussed his time serving as a surgeon aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War:

“I did a lot of minor procedures, and one of those was circumcision. They’d line up at the door to have circumcisions, these sailors at the age of eighteen, nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-five. And the reason that they were anxious to have their circumcisions done was because they knew from evidence from their friends that having circumcision improves sex because you could last longer. You didn’t have the same degree of stimulation, and to some men, to many men, this is a very important issue.” [1]

While Sade, a professor of surgery at the host institution, has included in online biographies his affiliations with several medical associations, he has not indicated an AAP affiliation. [2] The program indicates a debate-type session between Dr. Michael Brady of the AAP Task Force and Steven Svoboda of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. The clip appears to be of an unscripted question-and-answer period following the debate. We found no evidence that the AAP sponsored the event. [3]

Apparently Marotta's claim that the AAP "knows" that circumcision affects penile sensitivity is based entirely on the silence of Brady and any other AAP members present during Sade's answer. However it's extremely unlikely that any of the panelists would have been present with Sade during his military service; so none of them would have been in position to dispute his personal recollection.

Sade mentioned no scientific, peer-reviewed studies to validate the speculation about sensitivity. This clip provides nothing more than third-hand anecdotes told by sailors to their peers and then passed on to the surgeon. Furthermore, if the sailors were comparing their sexual experiences before and after circumcision, then surely they were circumcised as adults, not infants. Men circumcised as adults cannot shed light on the possible effects of newborn circumcision on a man's sexual performance, sensation, or pleasure.

Marotta’s blog post links to a 1999 AAP Policy Statement that has since been superseded. The current 2012 AAP Policy Statement reports: “The literature review does not support the belief that male circumcision adversely affects penile sexual function or sensitivity, or sexual satisfaction, regardless of how these factors are defined.” The AAP statement cites several papers that reported on studies of the effects of circumcision on sexual function, performance, and pleasure. Sade was not a member of the 2012 AAP Task Force on Circumcision. [4]

In conclusion, there is no basis for this accusation. The clip does not show that the American Academy of Pediatrics is concealing information about the effects of circumcision from the public. Nor does it show that the AAP is making false statements, either knowingly or accidentally.

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the Circumcision Choice Facebook page on November 13, 2016

[2] Robert M Sade M.D.; Faculty Directory; Medical University of South Carolina

Robert M Sade; National Center for Policy Analysis

[3] "Pitts lecture to focus on ethical pediatric issues"; "The Catalyst"; Medical University of South Carolina; October 9, 2013

[4] Susan Blank M.D., et al; Male Circumcision Technical Report; American Academy of Pediatrics; August 2012

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