Do medical students have to assist circumcisions?

Dear Dr Pate,

I am a 2nd year medical student that will be starting rotations soon. Coming across your website, I noticed you were an intactivist OB/Gyn. I am also an intactivist and realize there will be many procirc doctors with crazy mindsets. It is expected that there will be issues with doctors when I refuse to help with this operation.

Do you have any advice for me at this point?
Do you get a lot of resistance to your views and how do you deal with it?

I read through your blog briefly, there are some interesting things contained there. Thank You!

Dear P,

Thanks for writing! You absolutely have the right to refuse to participate in any way of the circumcision process including offering the procedure to new parents when you round on patients, discussing it with interested parents who bring up the topic, consenting parents for the procedure, observing and performing circumcisions. Check out the pamphlet Conscientious Objection to the Performance of Non-therapeutic Circumcision of Children: A guidance for healthcare providers from Doctors Opposing Circumcision. You will likely get some flack, but it is absolutely worth it. I have blogged quite a bit about experiences with my residency program regarding the subject. Senior residents in particular were not happy with my stance given that they then “had to do my work”. Whatever. No one can make you do anything you are morally opposed to. Check out the links on my website for information about intactivist organizations. There are a LOT of resources for you and for the parents you will come in contact with. Thanks for your willingness to stand up for personal autonomy and “do no harm.” Feel free to write again at anytime. Good luck!


James Pate, MD

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