One day several years ago in Kenya, Dr. Doug Stein performed vasectomies on 53 men who had fathered a combined 358 children. Afterward, the men were waiting beneath a corrugated roof for a bus to take them back to their villages when a filmmaker who was making a documentary on Dr. Stein gathered them together to take a picture.
"We support World Vasectomy Day!" the filmmaker yelled, urging the men to repeat that. The men's voices grew louder as they said it over and over.
So began World Vasectomy Day, a whimsical effort to help the Kenyan men feel good about what they had just done but a logical next step for Stein, who believes every vasectomy affects the planet, controlling population growth and reducing our carbon footprint.
Stein, 61, is known to anyone who has traveled interstates in Florida, where more than a dozen billboards tout his $490 (soon to be $590) scalpel-free vasectomies. On Nov. 7, Stein will lead the second World Vasectomy Day from a Planned Parenthood facility in Kissimmee; 250 doctors worldwide will perform 2,500 vasectomies. Stein's work that day will be free.
Stein, who travels around Florida providing vasectomies for health departments in 32 counties, will offer streaming video of the procedures on worldvasectomyday.org. Leonora LaPeter Anton caught up with him at his office in Tampa and asked about the procedure he has performed 33,839 times.
What's the point of World Vasectomy Day?
It's a celebration of responsible men who have done something to reduce the risk to their partner and help the environment. I don't want to deprive anyone of the joys of parenthood, but if you want to be a parent of four, don't have five.
Why are you going for a record 2,500 in a day with such a delicate procedure?
It's just a number. If we have 250 doctors doing them in 25 to 30 countries, that's 10 per doctor, so that's not so many. It's just something to do. It's not the only 2,500 vasectomies that will take place on the planet that day. There will be far more. But in the spirit of World Vasectomy Day, the voices of 2,500 men who will step up to the plate and do what is right will be heard.
What's your personal record for one day?
Well, this is not something to be proud of, but in the Philippines, I did 71 in a day. I was between two tables with two teams of people helping me with them, getting one guy ready while I was working on the other. But it was my last day there, and there were 107 patients, and another fellow and I were there, and I was faster than him and did 71 of them. Some of these people come from miles away to get a vasectomy. In Haiti, I spoke with two guys who were in the parking lot long after I'd performed their vasectomies. They said it was because they'd spent all their money to get there. When we were in Kenya, some men traveled nine hours to get to us because they found out we were there. I don't want guys feeling they are part of an assembly line, thinking I rushed, because I didn't. In the U.S., my record is 38 in a day.
What are the marketing obstacles you face?
There's no financial obstacle in Canada, because everyone is covered. Here, an uninsured guy who might be a laborer working on a roof or (for) a lawn service doesn't have insurance, and he has no time to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, and that $490 (vasectomy cost) looms larger than the $240,000 it costs to raise a child. But let's say money is no object. A lot of guys don't feel comfortable having some stranger work on their privates. There's a privacy issue. There's a modesty issue. They're worried it's going to erase their erection, which is not going to happen because a vasectomy has nothing to do with an erection. But what happens is, you'll get a guy with two kids who says no one is going to touch my junk, and by the time they have four kids, the wife is exhausted, so he's not getting any anymore, and he starts to come around.
What is the single biggest misconception about vasectomies?
That it's going to hurt. Most guys say it doesn't hurt. You might be that 1 percent of cases that experiences some pain. I always ask: Would you tell the next guy it hurt? And most guys say it was a little uncomfortable but they wouldn't say it hurt.
Do you ever get tired of performing vasectomies, or want to do something else?
I think what I do is important. I'm very happy with what I do. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm so far out from doing general urology and cancer surgery and stones, it's like asking a violin player if he wants to give up and switch to the piano. The scrotum is my instrument. It's what I play the best. I'm staying with what I'm good at.