Denial of loss

Persons who have lost body parts must grieve their loss.40,41,42,44 The first stage of grief is denial of the loss.24 Fitzgerald and Parkes state that “Anything that seriously impairs sensory or cognitive function is bound to have profound psychological effects, not only on the person who is affected but also on family, friends, workmates, and caregivers.”41 The thought of permanent loss of sensory function is so painful that persons deny their loss in order to avoid facing the painful feelings.41 Denial of loss causes a flight from reality. Parkes et al. state that persons in denial may minimize their loss.40,41,42 Circumcision causes the loss of a body part and all of its functions including a drastic loss of erogenous sensory function, so denial of loss is not uncommon in circumcised males. Circumcised males may experience the full range of distress and emotional dysfunction resulting from loss. This frequently results in circumcised fathers adamantly insisting that a son be circumcised.24,28, 56 Fathers are frequently unable to vocalize their feelings. They will say that “I want my son to look like me,” even though the child may be different in eye color, hair color, and other aspects. In fact, what the father really may be feeling is, “I don’t want a son with an intact penis to remind me of what I have lost.”


Effects of denial on medical doctors

Goldman states that some circumcised male medical doctors misuse the medical literature to support, rationalize, and justify their own loss; and to defend the practice of circumcision.46 Denniston reports that doctors “who have been cut themselves may be unable to stop cutting others.”24 LeBourdais reports that the likelihood of a baby being circumcised is determined by the circumcision status of the a father; the sex, age, and circumcision status of the physician; amongst other factors. Goldman reports that doctors who are older, male, and circumcised are more likely to condone circumcision.46 Members of medical societies may have emotional issues that may preclude the objective formulation of policy concerning non-therapeutic male circumcision.54

24 Bigelow, Jim, Ph. D. Chapter 10, Psychological Factors Related to Infant Circumcision, pp.89-112. In:The Joy of Uncircumcising!, Hourglass Book Publishing, Inc., Aptos CA 95001, 1992, 1995. (ISBN 0-934061-22-X)
28 Denniston GC. An Epidemic of Circumcision. Paper presented at the Third International Symposium on Circumision, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, May 22-25, 1994. (
40 Maguire P, Parkes CM. Coping With Loss: Surgery and loss of body Parts. [Part 4/10.] Brit Med J 1998; 316(7137)
41 Fitzgerald RG, Parkes CM. Coping with loss: Blindness and loss of other sensory and cognitive functions..BMJ 1998;316:1160-1163.[Part 5/10]
42 Parkes CM. Coping with loss: Facing loss. BMJ 1998;316:1521-1524. [Part 10/10]
44 Menage J. (1998) Circumcision and psychological harm. (Link to
46 Goldman R. The psychological impact of circumcision. BJU International 1999; 83, Suppl. 1:93-102.
54 Goldman R. Circumcision policy: a psychosocial perpective. Paediatr Child Health 2004;9(9):630-3. (Offsite link)
56 Hill G. Circumcision and human behavior. Knol 2008. [Full Text]