At what age does someone gain the legal right to not be circumcised?

Factual question inspired by the IMHO thread Would you get your son’s penis circumcised?. Though it is still legal in many places to have a baby circumcised, surely it wouldn’t be legal for parents to force a cosmetic/religiously-motivated circumcision on a school-aged kid who doesn’t consent to the procedure, right? At what age does the law draw the line?

Asking from Canada, but let’s see how much the answers vary around the world.

It seems that in Oregon 12 year olds can’t refuse (or couldn’t, I don’t know the final disposition)

Here is an article on the final disposition of the case robert_columbia mentions. (It’s from an advocacy site, but it’s hard to find a cite that isn’t…) It appears that the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the lower court and the appeals court and kept him from being circumcised against his will. He was 14 by the time this happened, so apparently in Oregon a 14-year-old can at least tell the judge he doesn’t want to be circumcised.

Of course, in this case, the parents were divorced and the mother was opposed to the circumcision, while the father wanted it to happen. If both parents had been on board, it probably would have had much different outcome.

Well, you asked for answers from around, the world, so: in South Africa, a circumcision may not be performed on a boy age 16 or over without his consent. Boys under 16 may only be circumcised for a religious or medical reason, but in any case a boy of any age may, “taking into consideration the child’s age, maturity and stage of development”, refuse circumcision.

The relevant provisions are s. 12 (8)–(10) of the Children’s Act 2005:

How about cites regarding girls who don’t want their ears pierced? Or other cosmetic or elective surgery?

Cutting off the nerve-rich foreskin is more akin to removal of the clitoral hood than the minimally-destructive elective surgery of ear-piercing. There aren’t vast legions of women who regret having their ears pierced before they were old enough to consent–earlobes aren’t the primary erogenous zone for women. And anyway, piercing doesn’t lead to keratinization of a heretofore internal organ, reducing pleasurable sensations by 25-30%. On the other hand, there are *many *men who regret that their foreskin was removed at birth. There even exists a non-profit support group for men who are interested in foreskin restoration.

On the one hand, I don’t dispute any of what rachelellogram wrote. On the other hand, I don’t think any of it is relevant to the question of whether or not the parent has a legal right to force such permanent changes upon a child, against the child’s will.

You don’t need a support group when you’ve got Jack Dean Taylor!

Why wouldn’t the long-term effects of the surgery affect whether it’s permissible to force it on a reasoning, objecting being? A 13 year old refusing circumcision is not the same thing as a 13 year old refusing lifesaving cancer treatment. Once a child is old enough to articulate his wishes, that’s a solid indication that he’s too old to be forced to have this particular procedure… especially considering that by then, he’s likely old enough to have started masturbating.

This is an interesting question. Basically you are asking, at what age does a child gain the right to withhold consent for medical treatment?

This is a different question than the point about when a child may consent to medical treatment (although sometimes the answer may be the same).

The short answer, in the US, is that the answer depends on the state. Some states have an explicit age at which a child may withhold consent designated in their rules or regulations. Many states permit children to withhold consent at a specific age or when the provider believes them capable of withholding consent. This determination is usually based on a number of factors. In other situations, if a child wants to demonstrate that they can withhold consent, they may have to go to court to do so (if they fall below the age that the state specifies).

Another important consideration on this topic is: Would a provider perform a procedure/surgery on a patient who did not consent? It is extremely unlikely that a provider would move ahead with a non-lifesaving surgery on a child who refused to consent, even if that child were below the mandated age in that state (this applies to a child who is capable of clearly articulating they do not consent, as opposed to a child who is simply scared of surgery or too young to understand). From both an ethical and a professional perspective, most providers would be opposed to performing surgery in that situation. In addition, it is possible that a child could argue that the parents had no right to consent (again, depends on state law), and pursue criminal or civil action against the provider if they proceeded.

Religious or elective circumcision is not analogous to lifesaving medical treatment. If there was a disease in a 13 year old’s foreskin, I don’t think anybody would argue against removing it post-haste. If the child objected, it would need to be done anyway. But for a procedure that is not medically necessary, we can’t approach the question the way you’re trying to do.

How old do you think that is? I didn’t try masturbating until at least a decade after I could speak.

I’m not sure where in my answer I stated that consent/withholding of consent only applied to “lifesaving medical treatment.” In fact, consent is integral to all medical treatment. The OP asked when someone has the legal right not to be circumcised. It’s entirely appropriate to look at legal structures that define consent in order to answer that question.

And actually, you are incorrect. A child at 13 could withhold consent to live-saving surgery in some states, if deemed competent to do so (with a protracted legal battle of course).

I bet you were talking dirty from age one.

You said “medical treatment.” Unnecessary elective surgery doesn’t meet the definition of medical treatment, because it’s elective. Perhaps you consider this unnecessarily pedantic, but I work in insurance.

What about the case of a child who refuses chemotherapy, and whose parents refuse to make him get chemotherapy, but the judge orders him to get it anyway? From that link: “If chemotherapy is ordered and the family refuses, the judge said, Daniel will be placed in temporary custody.”

Or, if you will, reference the case of Katie Wernecke, who was put in foster care and provided with chemotherapy for a lymphoma against her parents’ will.

I do think that’s unnecessarily pedantic- I’m referring to the common meaning of the term, not a specific industry term (particularly when we are not discussing insurance/insurance coverage). I can also find references to other industries that would include treatment more broadly. The point is medical care.

In both of these cases, the focus is more that the parents would not consent. The court in each instances appears to have determined that in fact the parents were not able to withhold consent/consent for their child and that the child was not able to consent/withhold consent. There are much more cases about parental lack of capacity to consent for their child, tied in with child brainwashing. The fact that a judge stepped in each time demonstrates how parents may not always consent for their children, and if they children were competent (which they are not due to their parents brainwashing), they would probably be consenting for themselves.

The removal into state custody in your second example raises a whole other set of issues and consent requirements, but basically further demonstrates that the parents were unable to care for their children (in the opinion of the state). I have expertise in foster care consent to medical care, so I will not derail this thread with that topic but am happy to continue in a new thread if you really care.