Private clinics that perform unnecessary circumcision on boys flouted the moratorium on elective procedures during the COVID pandemic and passed the bill to taxpayers, the latest RSA webinar has heard.
At Wednesday’s webinar, guest speaker Jonathan Meddings, author of the new book The Final Cut: The Truth about Circumcision, showed data on how annual Medicare claims related to penile circumcision have remained constant in recent years and even peaked at almost 23,000 during the pandemic in 2020/21.
“That highlights the fact that circumcision providers were clearly flouting the moratorium that was placed on elective procedures in order to perform these unnecessary cosmetic circumcisions. And I think that’s outrageous because they were doing that at a time when personal protective equipment was scarce, and they were using that up when it was needed on the frontlines by health care providers that were dealing with COVID patients,” he said.
Mr Meddings said it was the business model of private GP clinics – which perform the vast majority of circumcision procedures in Australia for social, cultural or religious reasons – to have “boys on a conveyor belt”.
He said that private clinics were fraudulently making Medicare claims because most circumcision procedures undertaken in Australia would not be considered as ‘clinically relevant’ and would therefore not qualify for the Medicare rebate.
Key representative bodies in the medical profession, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand, do not recognise the practice as necessary or appropriate to treat any condition.
“Claiming Medicare rebates for non-clinically relevant circumcisions would appear to be an offence under the Health Insurance Act 1973 and the Criminal Code 1995. In other words, it’s a criminal act,” he said.
For 2018, the Medical Benefits Scheme Taskforce estimated that $2.6 million in taxpayers’ money was spent on the procedure.
Mr Medding said the cost of the practice was more than economic, with non-consenting children having to live with the harms of medically unnecessary circumcision for the rest of their lives.
He urged people to write to their local MP about the issue to tell them that children should be protected from non-consensual, medically unnecessary genital cutting and that taxpayers should not be paying for it. He also said the issue flouted human rights and particularly the children’s religious freedom.
“You often have religious parents say, ‘Well, it’s my human right; it’s my right to religious freedom. I’m going to do it. It’s my child, I’ll do what I want.’ I think it always helps to remind ourselves that children are not the property of their parents. They’re people, they’re human beings, endowed with [their own] human rights… ” he said.
“In fact, imposing a religious practice like religious circumcision on a child breaches the child’s right to freedom of religion and belief because it denies them the opportunity to grow up and decide for themselves whether or not they want to participate in a religious ritual that involves the removal of a body part.”
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman