Illegal procedures

A doctor is expelled from the medical register for performing clitoris surgery.

Published January 3, 2001 8:03PM (EST)

In 1985, the United Kingdom outlawed the female circumcision practice of "sunna," a Somali word that means the removal of the head of a clitoris. Despite the ban, the British Medical Association estimates that up to 4,000 girls are still genitally mutilated each year.

There should be fewer such operations in 2001. A British physician who was caught in 1997 offering to perform circumcisions was last month expelled from the medical register.

While practicing in Manchester, Dr. Abdul Ahmed was approached by a Somali woman named Amena. She had been circumcised herself as a girl, and told the doctor she wanted the "sunna" procedure done on her daughter, as well as two daughters of friends. Ahmed, 63, told the woman he could circumcise her daughter that day at his home for 50 pounds. When she asked about the other two girls, Ahmed said: "I can do the circumcision and the stitch, because they are older." In the Somali community, the "stitch" refers to a practice of cutting away the female external genitalia, including part of the labia. To Ahmed, this wasn't a grisly and unethical procedure, it was just business.

What Ahmed hadn't anticipated was that in Amena's handbag was concealed a videotape camera. The entire conversation was being recorded, and provided evidence of serious professional misconduct. Ahmed soon found himself standing before a disciplinary hearing of the General Medical Council. According to the Guardian newspaper, the committee's chairman, Denis McDevitt, was not pleased.

"The committee is appalled by the evidence they have heard of your offer to perform an abhorrent mutilation and illegal operation on female children," McDevitt told the doctor.

Ahmed, who now practices in Stoke Newington in north London, offered a variety of excuses as to why he was brought before a hearing.

"I told her [Amena] that I did not do female circumcision," he told the committee.

The group was not impressed, and so he then tried a different strategy: "Part of the tape when I tell her this is missing."

The GMC rejected that also.

Ahmed's attorney, Alan Jenkins, then claimed that Ahmed was hard of hearing and became confused, thinking that Amena was talking about circumcising young boys instead of girls.

Enough was enough. Finding nothing credible in Ahmed's flimsy excuses, the GMC chose to believe the police report and videotape evidence, and yanked the doctor's professional credentials. He has four weeks to appeal the decision.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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