UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER
May 5, 2000
Mrs. Mary Robinson
Dear Mrs. Robinson:
I am writing to ask your professional opinion on the human rights implications of a medical study carried out at the University of Alberta in 1997. The purpose of the study was to measure pain responses in male infants undergoing circumcision.
By the researchers' own account, circumcision of newborn males is not medically required.
Thus the study in question involved performing non-essential surgery on individuals legally incapable of giving informed consent. All of the subjects suffered pain; some were traumatized to the point of danger. The study was halted prematurely after one of the subjects vomited, went into shock and stopped breathing for more than 25 seconds.
Since the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights "promotes universal ratification and implementation of international standards," you may be in an excellent position to answer questions related to this medical experiment. My question is: in your view, did the study adhere to the principles enunciated in international instruments in the field of human rights, specifically:
I have included relevant portions of these documents in an Appendix.
I also enclose the following material:
I would be most interested in hearing your professional opinion on this matter. I look forward to your reply.