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July 12, 1965

Uvulectomy, Ethnic Mutilation or Prophylactic Surgery?An Oriental Tale

Author Affiliations

From Pondville Hospital, Walpole, Mass.

JAMA. 1965;193(2):164-165. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090020078027

DURING MANY YEARS of medical practice in northern Morocco, I often met patients who had no uvula. The rim of the soft palate described one single curve uninterrupted by the fleshy pendant of the uvula; no scar was visible. The repetitious nature of such encounters triggered an inquiry, the result of which I submit to the meditation of my colleagues, particularly the otorhinolaryngologists.

The absence of uvula was in all cases imputable to surgical removal during childhood, mostly soon after birth. The operation is performed on infants of both sexes; it is carried out either by the caretaker or sexton of the neighborhood mosque, or by a barber (mohallem hayyam). Many barbers in tradition-fast Morocco are still practical surgeons as they were in medieval Europe. The instrumentarium consists of a wooden spatula or a reed fork and a falciform bistoury. The reed is split at one end and the tines

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