Chicago - In a decision cheered by foes of routine circumcision for boys, a judge has ruled that a nine-year-old need not be circumcised as his mother wanted.
A dispute between the boy's divorced parents about whether to circumcise him escalated into a court case, and Cook County Judge Jordan Kaplan declared in his ruling that it was unclear if the boy would benefit medically from having the procedure done.
Witnesses for the boy's mother argued he had suffered infections underneath his foreskin. The father's expert witnesses said the mother had wrongly retracted his foreskin in order to clean his penis and had irritated the area.
In granting the boy's father an injunction blocking the procedure, the judge said the boy could decide for himself whether to be circumcised when he turns 18.
The case is sure to fuel arguments for and against male circumcision.
The American Academy of Paediatrics has said it does not recommend routine circumcision, though it does have some potential medical benefits.
In a statement, the Doctors Opposing Circumcision said the judge's ruling protected "the boy's legal right to bodily integrity."
"Male circumcision in an irreversible amputation of functional tissue," it added.
"The ruling opens a very interesting question," said the group's John Geisheker. "If the benefits of circumcision are not available to a nine-year-old, what does that say about infants?"
At least one study has shown infants that have been circumcised later show a greater sensitivity to pain, "an infant analogue to post-traumatic stress disorder," Geisheker said.
On the opposing side, one study suggested an uncircumcised penis may be more prone to becoming infected with HIV.
The practice of circumcising infant males is rare in Europe, while it is declining but remains common in the United States.