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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

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Circumcision - the Cruellest Cut?

Danny Katz is suprised there isn't a university course for mohels, or traditional circumcisors (The Age, 22/1/03). It's not a bad idea. Perhaps such a course might encourage the use of critical thinking and evidence within the profession.

For example, Dr. Herschel Goldman claims medical benefits for this practice: specifically, the penis is cleaner, and there is a reduced risk of STDs and cervical cancer (for partners). I can't see how this benefits sexually-inactive infants, so why not wait until consent can be given? Because, even for adults, these benefits are not significant given basic hygiene, condoms and pap smear testing.

Dr. Goldman suggests that we "weigh all this up against the short-term pain of the infant". What about the risks of carrying out the procedure itself, such as bleeding, damage and infection? Reason dicates any fair assessment would have to consider those risks, as well as the loss of function and possible longer-term psychological effects of the trauma.

Little wonder the medical profession does not support this practice on medical grounds, and the circumcision rate is falling below 5% in Victoria. The Australasian College of Physicians, on its website, says "review of the literature in relation to risks and benefits shows there is no evidence of benefit outweighing harm for circumcision as a routine procedure."

If some people in our community want to mutilate their sons' genitals, let's not kid ourselves with spurious medical reasons. I suspect that these claims are promulgated by advocates to avoid comparisons with Female Genital Mutilation: it is, after all, a difference of degree, not principle.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

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Speed Camera Revenue

So half of Australian motorists believe our governments' motives to be "less than pure" when it comes to speed camera revenue ("Speed turn- off accelerates", The Age, 14/01/03). They think that camera placement has more to do with revenue-raising than safety. Putting aside arguments about the true costs of speeding in this state, let's allay their concerns by ensuring that speeding fines aren't squandered on hospitals, road safety, trauma counselling and the like.

This could be achieved by using existing "profitable" speed cameras to subsidise the operation of new otherwise "uneconomic" ones. However, I doubt that these motorists will welcome the prospect of a revenue- neutral speed camera program, as it will increase the number of fines they pay. It is where the revenue comes from that causes their distress, not where it is spent.