Mom 'enraged' she can't find doctor to perform circumcision on P.E.I.

An Island woman wants circumcision procedures made available on P.E.I. but said she hasn't been able to find in the province willing to perform one.

Arielle MacDonald says she wants the procedure done on her infant son for health reasons

Arielle MacDonald says she has no choice but to travel off-Island to get a circumcision procedure for her five-month-old son Liam. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Arielle MacDonald holds her five-month-old son Liam in her arms, kissing his small, smiling face. She says she would do anything for him, including travelling four hours off-Island to get him a circumcision.

MacDonald's family has a history of urinary tract infections and a circumcision procedure could help lower the risk of Liam developing those problems.

There's just one problem: MacDonald has been unable to find a doctor on P.E.I. willing to perform the procedure.

"I'm enraged that I can't get it done in my own province," MacDonald said.

The mom has been told that she will need to travel to Fredericton to get a circumcision done, meaning that both MacDonald and Liam's father will be required to take time off work, pay for bridge fare, gas, hotel and food for the night.

That cost is in addition to paying for the procedure itself, which MacDonald said will be $625.

"I don't care that I have to pay for the circumcision procedure, I care that I can't get it done in my own province," MacDonald said.

Risks in travelling

MacDonald is also worried about the journey itself, which will mean many stops along the four-hour drive following the procedure.

The Canadian Paediatric Society says unless it's a medical necessity, circumcisions 'should be deferred until the individual concerned is able to make their own choices.' (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"Once a circumcision is done you have to watch for the bleeding and infection. So you do have to check their diaper every half hour," she said.

The province doesn't keep track of any doctors who perform circumcisions on P.E.I.

In a statement to CBC News, Health PEI said it follows the lead of the Canadian Paediatric Society, which does not recommend routine newborn circumcision.

"The decision whether or not to perform this procedure is up to the individual physician. Health PEI does not help arrange this procedure," it wrote.

Routine circumcision not recommended by CPS

On its website the Canadian Paediatric Society says there are potential health benefits with circumcision, particularly in high-risk populations.

The CPS says infant circumcision reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections in young boys and eliminates the need for the procedure later in childhood to treat problems.

It also writes that circumcision in adult men men can reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease and that circumcised men have a lower risk of developing penile cancer. It also reduces the risk of cervical cancer in any female partners.

The CPS does not recommend the routine circumcision of every newborn male. The society says newborns who experience pain from the procedure respond differently to later vaccinations with "higher pain scores."

It also writes that a circumcision "has lifelong consequences and is performed on a child who cannot give consent" and that in cases where "medical necessity is not established or a proposed treatment is based on personal preference, interventions should be deferred until the individual concerned is able to make their own choices."

An option not everyone can afford

But MacDonald argues the decision should be left to individual parents and the procedure should be made available in every province. 

"If you don't want to circumcise your son that is your choice. You can leave that option up to your son when he reaches adulthood if he wants to be circumcised or not," she said.

MacDonald said she would prefer to have Liam circumcised as a baby so he won't remember the pain of the procedure.

"Every adult male that I've spoken to that's over the age of 45 that had to get this procedure done ... wishes that their parents would have done them as an infant," she said.

That's why on Tuesday, MacDonald will be making the trip to Fredericton, but said she plans to keep advocating for access to circumcisions on P.E.I.

"I'm doing this for the people that can't afford the trip and want to get their son done but they can't and they don't have any other option," she said. "I don't think that's right." 

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  • A previous version of the story said the CPS said the risks of circumcision outweigh the benefits. In fact the CPS says "the medical risk:benefit ratio of routine newborn male circumcision is closely balanced."
    Jun 25, 2019 11:17 AM AT

About the Author

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. She previously worked as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.


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