AMA House of Delegates
Illinois Delegation—Resolution No. 224
515 North State Street
Chicago, IL 60610

Dear Sir/Madam:

I understand that the above referenced resolution would mandate the “AMA to devise effective methods to protect Physicians from the criminalization of medicine.” As a longtime human rights attorney and director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, I would like to remind you that not all acts committed by physicians constitute the practice of medicine. It is highly questionable whether any procedure not beneficial to a child’s health can constitute the practice of medicine regardless of a parent’s request for the procedure or cultural and/or religious expectations regarding the procedure. One obvious example is male circumcision, whose lack of medical justification is clear and which is largely justified today by physicians as a cultural and/or religious procedure. Human rights laws which are binding in the United States under direct treaty ratification and/or customary law–as well as criminal laws prohibiting battery, assault, unlawful imprisonment, and ritual abuse–bar such interference with an individual’s right to bodily integrity barring a superseding medical justification. Naturally, no resolution will have the power to supersede international and state laws forbidding non-therapeutic procedures such as circumcision.

Presumably the AMA does not wish to pass a resolution which is likely to be perceived by the public as a self-serving attempt to avoid rightful criminal liability for procedures which are performed without medical justification. With respect, I would therefore suggest that serious and immediate consideration be given to indefinitely tabling Resolution No. 224.

Thank you for your attention.


J. Steven Svoboda
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child