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Journal Article

The Universal Condition: Medical Constructions of ‘Congenital Phimosis’ in Twentieth Century New Zealand and their Implications for Child Rearing

Lindsay R. Watson
Health and History
Vol. 16, No. 1 (2014), pp. 87-106
DOI: 10.5401/healthhist.16.1.0087
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5401/healthhist.16.1.0087
Page Count: 20
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The Universal Condition: Medical Constructions of ‘Congenital Phimosis’ in Twentieth Century New Zealand and their Implications for Child Rearing
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Abstract

‘Congenital phimosis’ was one of a number of pseudo-pathologies that entered mainstream medicine in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century Truby King, Henry Jellett, and Eric Corkill advocated premature foreskin retraction as the first intervention to manage ‘congenital phimosis’. If that failed they recommended circumcision, although eventually it became more expedient to use circumcision exclusively. The nineteenth-century justification for such interventions was to prevent masturbation, but by the middle of the twentieth century this was replaced by prevention of infections. Gairdner's landmark paper of 1949 turned New Zealand doctors away from ‘congenital phimosis’ and non-therapeutic circumcision, although some doctors and persisting family traditions maintained both interventions until the end of the century.

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