AAP refuses to lift circumcision recommendation guideline early despite coverage
On Friday, Tablet, a magazine about Jewish news, ideas, and culture — full disclosure, I’ve written for them — published a story titled “American Pediatric Group Endorses Circumcision.” The piece was based on a ” leaked copy of the new American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on circumcision, scheduled to be released on Monday” and:
…reveals a change in the prestigious medical body’s previous position (set in 1999) on the medical benefits of the procedure from “neutral” to “pro.” It details how a comprehensive evaluation of research from the last 15 years demonstrates that the medical benefits of circumcision—including “prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections”—outweigh the risks.
Tablet published the full AAP statement, whose embargo was scheduled to lift as this post goes live. So on Friday, I asked the AAP whether they’d be lifting the embargo:
The materials AAP has provided to reporters, including the lengthy technical report and interviews conducted with task force members under embargo, remain under embargo. The embargo is tied to the official publication in Pediatrics, which will not occur until Monday morning.
We are not sure how this outlet obtained the report, but I can say it will have AAP reconsidering how far in advance we offer embargoed copies of articles to anyone in the future. It is very frustrating because we know the vast majority of reporters understand and respect embargoes.
Embargo Watch readers will not be surprised to learn that I did not think the AAP had made the right call by refusing to lift the embargo on material that was now available in the public domain.
What makes this even more egregious is that the information in the policy statement had been known for almost two weeks, when the Washington Post ran a story that included this passage about the AAP’s position on circumcision:
That position is poised to change, though, as the AAP is expected to release an updated statement and report reflecting recent research later this month.
While details are not yet available, the new position concludes that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, said Michael Brady, a pediatrics expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP’s task force on circumcision.
The AAP wouldn’t lift the embargo then either, and asked members of their circumcision task force not to speak to the press until the materials were released under embargo on August 21.
The AAP didn’t do the right thing here — twice. I’ve been hoping that they had learned from the badly botched autism statistics embargo in 2009. They do, however, know how to lift embargoes early when information enters the public domain, as it did last November with its new cholesterol screening guidelines. Why they didn’t do so here is a mystery to me.