Please Don’t Cut The Baby: Foreword by Dr. Dean Edell
Read the Foreword to the new book by Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN
Please Don’t Cut the Baby! A Nurse’s Memoir, by Marilyn Fayre Milos,
will be available for purchase on February 20, 2024. Pre-order your copy now.
Foreword by Dean Edell, MD
True pioneers are an unusual lot. They decide to give their lives to a cause and follow through. Many of us dream about changing our world in some way but few ever get even close. Marilyn Milos is one of those unique people who pulled it off.
The devotion and passion she brought to her life’s work made it quite an experience to be around her. A furious tornado of energy swirled about her at all times. And, as the fastest talking human on earth, she never ran out of words. Marilyn’s commitment to her cause was a force to be reckoned with.
What was the subject of this ferocity? A small piece of human tissue at the tip of a baby’s penis—the foreskin—or more accurately, the lack of it after routine circumcision.
It’s a wonder to me that it took so long for circumcision to rise in the public conversation about healthcare and human rights. There was a palpable void. Perhaps a subject that dealt with the human penis was bound to be verboten in polite conversation, as well as on the federally regulated airwaves. Maybe it took a female to push the truth about circumcision onto the national stage because men themselves were not at all well informed about this routine travesty that affected them not only as infants but their entire lives.
In 1983, when I first got involved in Marilyn’s crusade to inform the public, as well as healthcare professionals, about how circumcision is not medically necessary, most men barely knew what circumcision was—even though most American men were circumcised. Until they were confronted by an uncircumcised penis in a locker room or in any foreign country other than Israel or Islamic nations, they might as well have arrived on the planet stripped of their foreskin. Simply put, in the conservative Reagan years during which Marilyn created NOCIRC, National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers, most Americans did not know what an intact penis looked like.
I met Marilyn when she and her colleague, Sheila Curran, came to the KGO studio because I’d invited them to show me their video on circumcision, Informed Consent. Marilyn then helped in putting together a two-part, mini documentary that aired for two nights on the medical segment during the evening news. I saw Marilyn again in the hospital just after my fourth son was born. Marilyn was educating mothers on the obstetrical ward about circumcision and telling them the American Academy of Pediatrics did not recommend it. That didn’t sit well with hospital brass, and Marilyn was fired shortly afterwards—a fortunate event because that gave Marilyn the time and incentive to launch her protest movement.
While Marilyn’s inspiration for educating the country on circumcision was the emotionally searing experience of witnessing a screaming baby tied down and forced to have a surgical removal of critical penile tissue, I came at it with a scientific public health and journalistic inter-est. My radio and television careers were taking off and Marilyn regaled me with a barrage of information that just clicked in my brain. Here was something no one was talking about in the national media. It was a no-brainer for me, and a story made for media—sex, religion, human rights, genitals, and babies. It had legs, as media pros would put it. We did lots of stories on radio and television and print media together.
A quick perusal of the medical literature on the subject revealed a gaping intellectual hole. Back in the nineteenth century, John Harvey Kellogg, in his copious cornucopia of health advice, advocated circumcision to prevent masturbation and sexual impropriety. So strong was his belief that he circumcised himself at age 37! The primary excuse in the later twentieth century for nonreligious circumcision was that we would prevent future medical problems of the penis by surgically removing part of it from a newborn infant. Using the same logic, shouldn’t we be removing infantile breast tissue from female infants to prevent breast cancer? Maybe while we’re there, grab other troublemakers like a gallbladder or an ovary? The prevention of disease was an outmoded myth, and the foreskin turned out to have important functions instead of being useless excess tissue.
In short, there was no logical or medical reason to routinely circumcise all baby boys born in the U.S. Other countries had mostly abandoned this practice long ago. As parents started informing themselves, they easily saw the ruse and made appropriate decisions. Marilyn was indefatigable in her efforts to bring this to the public’s attention. As Marilyn pushed and her organization NOCIRC grew, she brought her message to an ever-widening audience around the world. Marilyn organized annual international symposia, produced a variety of publications, and coordinated street protests at medical conventions and the offices of major medical organizations. She put this issue on the map.
The subject had so many different angles that more stories began to appear in print and electronic media. Mainstream medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics started weighing in and more publicity was generated. Even though they sometimes were too wishy-washy on the subject, I trusted that as more people were aware of the controversy, they would make the right decisions. We managed to stir up a hornet’s nest among diverse groups, from angry rabbis and pediatricians to adult women who had never seen a foreskin in person.
When female circumcision started making headlines, the hypocrisy of male circumcision was exposed. The pro-circumcision community pushed back with blind defensiveness. There was the thorny question of religious freedom and the right to perform blood rituals. American pediatricians and obstetricians initially were unconvinced until many looked at the research, saw no evidence to justify this gross violation of a baby’s body, and joined the movement. Objective research papers on sexual function and feelings are far and few between. Marilyn designed and implemented a scientific controlled study published in the British Journal of Urology that proved the circumcised penis was much less sensitive than the intact penis. Men who were circumcised as adults came forward and reported their experiences. The momentum was building and circumcision rates in the U.S. started to fall. But not far enough.
Marilyn has said many times that she won’t quit until the practice completely disappears from the American medical landscape. I believe her. Yet, in her eighth decade, it may be time for her to sit down for a minute and catch her breath while others carry the banners and spread the word.
Marilyn’s personal story, which you will read here, reveals furious devotion and an unwillingness to give up against overwhelming odds.
For those who believe that one person cannot change the world, you are wrong. Yes, of course, Marilyn had cohorts and helpers along the way without whom her success would have been muted. But educating America about circumcision started with one nurse who was outraged by one extremely common medical procedure others thought was routine and appropriate. I might have been one of those “others” if not for meeting Marilyn.
I was born Jewish and participated in the ritual of circumcision with my first three sons. After meeting Marilyn, it was impossible to acquiesce to routine circumcision for my fourth son. He is pushing 40 now and intact, and so is his son. Thanks, Marilyn.
About Dr. Dean Edell
In 1979, Edell began broadcasting regularly on KGO-AM radio in San Francisco. The Dr. Dean Edell radio program was in continuous production since then, and was, by 2005, syndicated to over 200 markets by Premiere Radio Networks, and aired weekday afternoons on America’s Talk on XM Radio. It was estimated to have 1.5 million unique listeners a week. The show’s opening theme music (presently, in 2008) is “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals.
The program’s format included commentary from Edell, and his conversations with callers on medical-related topics. He reported recent developments in medical science and exposed what he believed to be fraud, particularly in the areas of food supplements, holistic healing, and opposition to vaccinations. He frequently summarized complicated medical material in lay terms, and was fond of tackling controversial concepts from a viewpoint based on the scientific method.
On his program Edell was critical of drugs such as methylphenidate and the increasing number of diagnoses for attention deficit disorder (ADD) among children, based partially on Edell’s own experience as someone who, if younger, might have been diagnosed with ADD. He also was outspoken in his criticism of routine circumcision. He was critical of complementary and alternative medicine and those who oppose childhood vaccines.
On December 1, 2010, Edell announced his retirement from radio after flagship station KGO dropped the show in favor of a local news hour. At first, Edell’s syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, said it planned to continue the show in 2011 with a new host.
Copyrighted material from Please Don’t Cut the Baby!: A Nurse’s Memoir by Marilyn Fayre Milos with Judy Kirkwood(publication date February 20, 2024) used with permission from Intact America and Lucid House Publishing.
Listen to the Kindred Podcast Interview with Marilyn