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Circumcision deaths

March 6, 2021

Intactivists have claimed for years that more than 100 baby boys in the United States die each year from circumcision complications. In fact they have a specific number: 117 deaths. This statistic is so ingrained in the intactivist movement, that some of them believe that it's an actual figure. We've seen claims that 117 accounts for just the documented deaths from hospital statistics, and that the true number may be much higher.

This claim is based entirely on a 2010 study by Intact America's strategy adviser, Dan Bollinger. [1]

Bollinger admitted to us that 117 deaths was a "rough estimate." [2] His figure was quickly refuted by software engineer Jake Waskett. [3] Waskett observed that Bollinger's estimate was not based on any actual deaths attributed to circumcision, but rather was based on two faulty assumptions.

First, Bollinger found that the fatality rate for male neonates during 1991-2000 was 40% higher than the fatality rate for female neonates. He assumed that the higher rate was based entirely on circumcision. But Waskett noted that males have a significantly higher neonatal fatality rate than females all over the world, including in countries with low circumcision rates.

Second, Bollinger multiplied his total by 7.72 in order to account for circumcision deaths that occur after hospital release. But he offered no evidence that all or most male neonatal deaths after discharge were caused by circumcision.

According to The Circumcision Decision, “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 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 mortality rate at 0 to 2.5; not 100 to 117.” [4]

The 117 figure is so off base that even in their 2012 response, the European critics of the AAP didn't mention Bollinger's figure when discussing circumcision deaths. [5] Yet Intact America and the intactivist movement continue to use this discredited number to mislead their followers and the general public.


Our post These Boys analyzes a list of boys whose deaths intactivists have attributed to circumcision.

[1] Dan Bollinger, "Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Deaths": Journal of Boyhood Studies; Spring 2010

[2] Dan Bollinger; conversation with Circumcision Choice counter-protesters; AAP National Conference, San Francisco; October 22, 2016

[3] Jake Waskett, "Fatally Flawed: Bollinger's circumcision death calculations": Circumcision News; May 8, 2010

[4] Susan Terkel and Lorna Greenberg; "117 Deaths from Circumcision?"; The Circumcision Decision; 2013. NOTE: This website is now defunct.

[5] Morten Frisch, et al; "Cultural Bias in the AAP’s 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision"; Pediatrics; March, 2013. "Incidental deaths ... have also been reported, but exact figures are not available."


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