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I reported a colleague for barbarism

Dr John Fitton issues a challenge to the GMC over genital mutilation

This week I reported a doctor to the GMC for misconduct. I have never done this before. I have earned my living as a doctor over the space of three continents and time of three decades. I have come across a tiny number of doubtful characters but I have never, until now, known of a doctor who has deliberately harmed one of my patients.

At a routine six-week check I examined a rather miserable baby. It had a grazed glans penis, chafing on its nappy. The reason was that it no longer had any protection. Someone had amputated its foreskin.

The Ghanaian mother handed me a note. I asked her what religion advised such a painful and unnecessary procedure. She said she did not know, but it was 'part of our culture'. I gave her a 'Care of the Foreskin' leaflet in the hope that any further baby boys might be able to remain with the planet's vast majority of intact men.

It is distressing that genital mutilation seems to be on the increase in the civilised shire counties of England. This is the second case I have seen recently, having seen none for nearly 30 years.

Nowadays, children have rights that are legally protected. The European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into the Human Rights Act. It would appear that this doctor has not only done harm (primum non nocere) but has engaged in a trade that is illegal.

At great human cost we have made remarkable progress over the last century or two. Things that were considered normal like slavery, corporal punishment, no votes for women, etc, have been consigned to history.

It will take a long time to consign non-therapeutic amputation of the foreskin (usually referred to by the unthinking euphemism of 'circumcision') to history, but it will eventually happen. There are many enlightened members of the groups that still perform this rite who seek change. They look to bodies like the GMC for leadership.

Some years ago I wrote to say how little respect the GMC has among its members. Its gaudy homilies and the machinery allowing struck-off doctors positions of power made me ashamed to be a coerced member.

Respect does not come free. It has to be earned. I have no respect for any organisation that countenances such a barbaric procedure. So this is a challenge to the GMC. Do not sweep this under the carpet.

Dr John Fitton

Kettering, Northants

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