Danish Nurses Council Declares Circumcision Unethical

The Danish Nursing Council issued a statement on behalf of their youngest patients - infant boys, writing:

The circumcision of boys without medical indication is ethically unacceptable when the procedure is performed without the informed consent of the young person, and such consent can only be given once the child is of official age. 

Deputy Chairman of the Danish Nursing Council, Anni Pilgaard, added that:

Cutting is often done in connection with cultural and religious affiliation, and it is an intervention that permanently changes a child's body, so that the intervention eliminates a child's ability to make decisions about his own body. Therefore, circumcision of boys should not be done before a young person is of legal age, and can decide whether he wishes [to remain intact] or be circumcised. 

The Danish Nursing Council also included the following remarks in their statement:

The [circumcision] operation is in violation of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children must be protected from traditionally bound rituals that may be harmful to their health.

A growing number of nations have called for an introductory age minimum for circumcision surgery of 18 years of age -- when a young person can make decisions over his own genitals. This is a legal move that is supported by the vast majority (87%) of Denmark's citizens.

Press release: 
Omskæring af drenge bør kun ske efter den unge er myndig

Omskæring af drenge bør ikke finde sted uden en medicinsk begrundelse, medmindre han er myndig og selv giver sit samtykke til indgrebet. Sådan lyder meldingen fra Dansk Sygeplejeråd i debatten om omskæring af drengebørn efter, at sagen har været drøftet i Dansk Sygeplejeråds hovedbestyrelse.

Omskæring af drengebørn har været debatteret i Danmark i årtier. Dansk Sygeplejeråd har besluttet at ændre holdning til emnet og ligger dermed på linje med Lægeforeningen i spørgsmålet om omskæring af drenge, hvis holdning er, at med mindre der er en medicinsk grund til indgrebet, bør det ikke foretages, før drengen er myndig og kan give samtykke. På Dansk Sygeplejeråds kongres i 2016 var emnet til debat, og melding var, at DSR nøje ville følge stillingtagen til dette vigtige etiske emne også set i lyset af eksempelvis Lægeforeningens holdning. Lægeforeningen har for nylig valgt at præcisere sin politik om omskæring af drenge, hvilket erstatter foreningens hidtidige politikpapir fra 2012.

”Dansk Sygeplejeråd har valgt at følge Lægeforeningens holdning og ligger dermed ikke på linje med Sundhedsstyrelsen”, siger næstformand i Dansk Sygeplejeråd Anni Pilgaard.

”Beslutningen om at lade sig omskære bør være et personligt valg, som den enkelte giver sit samtykke til. Spørgsmålet om omskæring kan ikke overlades til et barns forældre, fordi der er tale om et indgreb, der ikke kan gøres om, som både er smertefuldt og som ethvert andet kirurgisk indgreb, indebærer risiko for komplikationer,” siger Anni Pilgaard.

”Omskæring sker ofte i forbindelse med kulturelle og religiøse tilhørsforhold, og der er tale om et indgreb, som permanent ændrer barnets krop, hvorfor indgrebet reducerer barnets mulighed for selv at bestemme over sin egen krop. Derfor bør omskæring af drenge ikke foretages, før den unge er myndig, og selv kan afgøre, om han ønsker omskæring,” siger Anni Pilgaard.

Indgrebet betegnes som i strid med FN's Børnekonvention, hvor der bl.a. står, at børn skal beskyttes mod traditionsbundne ritualer, som kan være skadelige for deres helbred.

Catheterization Without Retraction

By Adrienne Carmack, M.D. board-certified urologist, in practice in Texas, and author of The Good Mommy's Guide to Her Little Boy's Penis and Marilyn Fayre Milos, R.N. Executive Director of Genital Autonomy America, California.

Catheterization Without Retraction
Canadian Family Physician. 2017 Mar; 63(3): 218–220.

Over the past century, numerous boys born in Canada and the United States have been circumcised. (1) However, this trend is changing, with neonatal circumcision being performed less commonly than in years past. (2,3) Because of these historical practices, many physicians and nurses have limited experience treating patients with intact foreskins and engage in ill-advised procedures such as premature foreskin retraction for purposes of “hygiene” or catheterization. Premature retraction of the foreskin can lead to tearing of healthy tissue, which is painful and increases the risk of preputial scarring and infection. (4–6) We describe a method for catheterization in which premature retraction of the foreskin is not necessary.


The foreskin should first be gently manipulated to determine if the meatus can be easily visualized. Pressure used for this should be gentle to avoid tearing of tissues, similar to the amount of pressure that would be used when spreading the labia to visualize the meatus of a girl. If the natural attachments of the foreskin to the glans (head of the penis) remain, the foreskin should not be forced back to expose the meatus.

If the foreskin can be gently moved such that the glans and meatus can be seen, catheterization can be performed under direct vision using a sterile technique. The foreskin should never be retracted past the point where it has already naturally separated. (7)

If the meatus cannot be seen, the genitals can be prepared and draped in a sterile manner without retraction. The catheter can then be lubricated and gently inserted through the foreskin opening and guided into the meatus, much like an intravenous catheter is guided into a vein by feel. Gentle pressure with the thumb along the dorsal aspect and the fingers along the ventral surface of the penis can keep the catheter from slipping between the glans and inner lining of the foreskin into the preputial space (Figure 1).

When catheterization is being performed for the purpose of collecting a urine specimen, the foreskin should also not be forcibly retracted. In both boys with an intact prepuce and girls, the initial urine obtained during catheterization should be discarded, as this will contain preputial and periurethral flora. The latter urine should be saved for culture. (8)


An understanding of the normal anatomy and development of the foreskin illustrates why the technique of catheterization without retraction is an important skill for health care practitioners. Physiologic phimosis is the normal state of young boys. (9) This finding is characterized by a closed preputial outlet with the inner mucosa of the foreskin beginning to evert through the preputial opening, which is healthy with no scarring. The glans cannot be seen without retraction. This is in contrast to pathologic phimosis, in which the glans and meatus can often be seen, as the scarred ring of the preputial orifice is held open and no mucosa is visible at the preputial outlet. (10)

In a Danish study, 8% of healthy boys aged 6 to 7 still had complete physiologic phimosis preventing visualization of the meatus, and only 23% of boys this age had fully retractable foreskins. (11) In a Japanese study, 84.3% of boys aged 6 months to 1 year had a tight ring preventing any retraction, and this decreased gradually with time to 40% at ages 1 to 2 years, 28% at ages 3 to 4 years, 20% at ages 5 to 7 years, 16% at ages 8 to 10 years, and 8.6% at ages 11 to 15 years. (12)

The term phimosis is Greek and means “a muzzling.” Physiologic phimosis simply means the foreskin cannot be retracted and the glans is “muzzled.” Ballooning during urination is a common finding and part of the normal developmental process of foreskin separation. (10) It occurs because the opening of the immature foreskin is not yet lax enough to accommodate a full urine stream or passage of the glans through it. The foreskin and glans separate naturally as the child develops, has erections, and manipulates his foreskin. When a young boy manipulates his foreskin naturally, he tends to pull his foreskin away from his body, not toward it, as is done with retraction. As he gets older and more curious, he begins to pull his foreskin toward his body as well. (10) In most boys, physiologic phimosis resolves naturally by the end of puberty. (11)

The foreskin and glans are connected by the balanopreputial lamina, a membrane similar to the synechial membrane that connects the nail bed and the fingernail. The balanopreputial lamina is sometimes called the synechia. This membrane and the small preputial opening prevent retraction in boys with normal physiologic phimosis. The attachment might be forcefully disrupted, just as the fingernail can be torn from the nail bed, but this causes pain, is unnecessary, and can lead to infection, scarring, adhesion formation, or iatrogenic phimosis. There is no functional need for the glans to be exposed, and there is a protective effect of having the foreskin attached to and covering the glans.

Because the foreskin protects the glans penis and urethral meatus, premature exposure of the glans, as occurs after circumcision, commonly leads to meatal stenosis, in which a substantial part of the circulatory system in the glans penis is damaged (the frenular artery), and the glans tissue is exposed, denuded, and inflamed, which can lead to ulceration and subsequent scarring of the urethral opening. This inflammation and ulceration are caused by disruption of the normal attachment between the glans and foreskin, the absence of the protective foreskin, interruption in the normal circulatory system, or blisters from ammonia burns. (13–15) The blisters and ulceration at the opening of the urethra are caused by contact of urine-soaked diapers with the urethral meatus, which is no longer protected by the foreskin.

Retracting the foreskin of a prepubescent boy with physiologic phimosis, although still a common recommendation by many health care practitioners, has been shown to increase problems such as scarring and infection. These might result in iatrogenic pathologic phimosis and lead to a higher likelihood of circumcision being performed at a later date. (16)  If the prepuce is unable to retract, there is nothing to clean under. The foreskin should not be retracted for cleaning until the foreskin has naturally separated and the child can do this himself. In fact, the owner of the foreskin should be the first person to retract his foreskin. Forceful retraction causes microtears that can lead to pathologic phimosis. (10)

An additional danger of premature retraction is paraphimosis, a condition in which the retracted foreskin becomes stuck behind the glans penis, cutting off circulation and leading to ischemia and possibly penile gangrene if not treated promptly. Retracting the foreskin and cleansing with soap, commonly believed to be important for proper hygiene, not only exposes the child to the risks of premature foreskin retraction, but also to the risks of infection such as balanitis, which has been shown to be associated with the use of soap on the delicate mucosal tissues of the male genitalia. (17) Soap dries out mucosal tissue and should never be used on the glans or inner foreskin. The foreskin should be left alone until it demonstrates the ability to retract. (10) Once this is possible, foreskin care is simple: retract (gently and only to the extent possible), rinse, replace. Warm water and fingertips adequately clean the tissue.

Besides false beliefs about hygiene, one of the main reasons boys are subject to premature foreskin retraction is that many health care professionals believe that the foreskin must be retracted to obtain a clean specimen for urine culture. Fortunately, this is not the case. With proper technique, as described above, urine specimens can be obtained from boys with intact foreskins without exposing these patients to the risks of premature foreskin retraction. Although the focus of this article is on a technique for catheterization, it must be remembered that catheterization is an intervention that carries risks. The risks of catheterization include discomfort and introduction of bacteria into the urinary tract, which could lead to infection. Indications for catheterization include the need to monitor urine output for medical management, emptying the bladder in patients who are unable to do so, introducing contrast material for imaging procedures such as a voiding cystourethrogram, and obtaining a urine specimen for analysis in patients who are unable to provide one.

If a patient can reliably void into a collection container, catheterization for monitoring urine output can be avoided. Patients who cannot empty their bladders have the options of clean intermittent catheterization, indwelling urethral catheterization, and suprapubic catheter placement. Other options for collection of a urine specimen for analysis and culture include a midstream voided sample and suprapubic aspiration, and these should be considered when determining the optimal approach for specimen collection.8 Suprapubic aspiration is significantly more painful than urethral catheterization in premature male infants (P < .001). (18) Contamination is possible with catheterized samples as it is with voided samples.19 This suggests that catheterization for urine specimen culture should be reserved for those patients who are unable to provide a voided specimen into a clean container, and suprapubic catheterization should only be used if previous efforts to obtain a specimen have resulted in contamination.


In boys with intact prepuces and physiologic phimosis, catheterization without retraction minimizes potential long-term problems and is an effective technique. Understanding how to catheterize without direct vision of the meatus and discarding the initial urine if culture is desired allow this procedure to be performed with high validity and minimal risk of iatrogenic problems for the child.


1. Weiss H, Polonsky J, Bailey R, Hankins C, Halperin D, Schmid G. Male circumcision. Global trends and determinants of prevalence, safety and acceptability. Geneva, Switz: World Health Organization, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; 2007.

2. Maeda JL, Chari R, Elixhauser A. Circumcisions performed in U.S. community hospitals, 2009. Rockville, MD: Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2012. Available from: www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb126.jsp. Accessed 2015 Jun 15.

3. Fetus and Newborn Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society Neonatal circumcision revisited. CMAJ. 1996;154(6):769–80. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

4. Kaplan GW, McAleer . Structural abnormalities of the genitourinary tract. In: Mac-Donald MG, Mullett MD, Seshia MMK, editors. Avery’s neonatology. Pathophysiology and management of the newborn. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005. p. 1088.

5. Roberton NRC. Care of the normal term newborn baby. In: Rennie JM, Roberton NRC, editors. Textbook of neonatology. 3rd ed. Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Livingstone; 1999. pp. 378–9.

6. American Academy of Pediatrics . Newborns: care of the uncircumcised penis. Guidelines for parents [pamphlet] Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 1984.

7. Lacroix LE, Vunda A, Bajwa NM, Galetto-Lacour A, Gervaix A. Catheterization of the urethra in male children [video] N Engl J Med. 2010;363(14):e19. [PubMed]

8. Schaeffer AJ, Schaeffer EM. Infections of the urinary tract. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, Peters CA, editors. Campbell-Walshurology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders-Elsevier; 2007. pp. 238–9.

9. Smeulders N, Wilcox DT. Urology. Disorders of the kidney and urinary tract. In: Rennie J, editor. Rennie & Roberton’s textbook of neonatology. 5th ed. London, UK: Churchill Livingstone–Elsevier; 2012. p. 949.

10. McGregor TB, Pike JG, Leonard MP. Pathologic and physiologic phimosis. Approach to the phimotic foreskin. Can Fam Physician. 2007;53:445–8. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

11. Oster J. Further fate of the foreskin. Incidence of preputial adhesions, phimosis, and smegma among Danish schoolboys. Arch Dis Child. 1968;43(228):200–3. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

12. Kayaba H, Tamura H, Kitajima S, Fujiwara Y, Kato T, Kato T. Analysis of shape and retractability of the prepuce in 603 Japanese boys. J Urol. 1996;156(5):1813–5. [PubMed]

13. Canning DA, Nguyen MT. Evaluation of the pediatric urology patient. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, Peters CA, editors. Campbell-Walsh urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders-Elsevier; 2007. p. 3215.

14. Elder JS. Abnormalities of the genitalia in boys and their surgical management. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, Peters CA, editors. Campbell-Walsh urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders-Elsevier; 2007. p. 3749.

15. McGrath K. The frenular delta. A new preputial structure. In: Denniston GC, Hodges FM, Milos MF, editors. Understanding circumcision. A multi-disciplinary approach to a multidimensional problem. New York, NY: Springer; 2001. pp. 199–206.

16. Metcalfe PD, Elyas R. Foreskin management. Survey of Canadian pediatric urologists. Can Fam Physician. 2010;56:e290–5. Available from: www.cfp.ca/content/56/8/e290.full.pdf+html. Accessed 2017 Feb 2. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

17. Birley HD, Walker MM, Luzzi GA, Bell R, Taylor-Robinson D, Byrne M, et al. Clinical features and management of recurrent balanitis; association with atopy and genital washing. Genitourin Med. 1993;69(5):400–3. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

18. Badiee Z, Sadeghnia A, Zarean N. Suprapubic bladder aspiration or urethral catheterization: which is more painful in uncircumcised male newborns? Int J Prev Med. 2014;5(9):1125–30. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

19. Lau AY, Wong SN, Yip KT, Fong KW, Li SP, Que TL. A comparative study on bacterial cultures of urine samples obtained by clean-void technique versus urethral catheterization. Acta Paediatr. 2007;96(3):432–6. [PubMed]

Related Reading

Urine Samples and Catheter Insertion for Intact Boys: http://www.drmomma.org/2011/12/urine-samples-and-catheter-insertion.html

Using a Catheter Without Retraction: My Nurse Did It, and So Can Yours! http://www.savingsons.org/2013/01/using-catheter-without-retraction-my.html

How the Foreskin Protects Against UTIs: http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/how-foreskin-protects-against-uti.html

UTI and Circumcision Resources: http://www.savingsons.org/2014/11/uti-resource-page.html

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