Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

AAP refuses to lift circumcision recommendation guideline early despite coverage

with 2 comments

On Friday, Tablet, a magazine about Jewish news, ideas, and culture — full disclosure, I’ve written for thempublished 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.


Written by Ivan Oransky

August 27, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. AAP also declined to comment on possible change when I asked a week ago about cost-effectiveness analysis and criticism of the academy’s existing position at the time.

    Scott Hensley

    August 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

  2. How nice to know, that the AAP now endorses child mutilation. The human body is not hit or miss–everything serves a purpose including a foreskin. Maybe we should advocate mastectomy once women are finished breastfeeding–afterall, that would cut down on the risk of breast cancer. But sarcasm aside, the only one with no say in the matter is the baby, who cannot speak for himself. I am all in favor of circumcision, if the decision is made by a male over the age of 18. But mutilating babies is wrong, and I would love to see their evidence of health benefits–like how does it compare in the real world. Do European men, where routine circumcision is rarely practiced, have higher rates of all of these terrible health problems? I think not, especially STDs–the US leads the industrialized world on that one, also for HIV infection among developed nations.

    Roxanne (@nabeep)

    August 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

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