Thursday, May 5, 2011

Circumcision Death: Another One Bites the Dust

So I log onto Facebook to see this story.

Also released here:

Apparently a 2yo boy wakes up from being put under for a circumcision. He dies 10 hours later, and for whatever reason, people can't figure out why.

The boy was circumcised at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and they've run an autopsy to determine the cause of death of this child, as if it weren't obvious enough. They're apparently conducting a further "internal review," and they're going to report their "findings" to the state Department of Health.

This wouldn't be the first time Beth Israel gets in trouble over circumcision related complications; a few years ago, as much as 15 babies were infected with MRSA following their circumcisions due to terrible hygiene practices.

It will be infuriating, yet not surprising, that this child's death will be attributed to some secondary, unrelated mishap. The "right" amount of anaesthesia wasn't used, or there will have been some overlooked allergic reaction that caused this child to die. ANYTHING to hide the fact that the child's death is directly related to his circumcision.

The biggest question here is, DID this boy have to die? What was the reason he had to be circumcised in the first place? What was his problem? The medical or clinical indication for surgery? Did the child have a critical condition that could have only been remedied through surgery?

It seems this child's circumcision is tied to his parents' wedding. Was his circumcision going to be part of the marriage package? Perhaps one of the parents said that the boy is circumcised or the marriage was off? This report isn't giving too many details. If this boy was perfectly healthy and was not in need of surgery, then this alone begs the question of why he was even put under general anaesthesia in the first place.

In the comments section of this news article (first link), someone has already suggested that had the circumcision been performed by a mohel on the 8th day, the circumcision would have been a "success." This wouldn't be the first time I hear this line either. It never ceases to amuse me how people can say this brazenly with a straight face, forgetting, perhaps intentionally, of cases where mohels have been responsible for the deaths of newborn infants.

NY Mohel Infects 3 Babies With Herpes: One of Them Dies, Nothing Happens
A few years ago in New York, a mohel gave herpes to three baby boys, one of whom died. Orthodox Jews observe a practice called "metzitzah b'peh" whereby the mohel sucks blood directly from the child's wounded penis, and the disease was transmitted this way. Be that as it may, every effort was made to dismiss this notion, and city officials were unable to persuade Orthodox leaders to abandon the practice. The city was at odds with dealing with the Orthodox leaders who were angered by the infringement of their "religious freedoms," and its mandate to protecting public health.

Here, again, we observe the same attitude of looking under a rock for the elephant in the room, with the health department "investigating" whether or not the rabbi was responsible for infecting the infants.

Quoth Mayor Bloomberg:
"We're going to do a study, and make sure that everybody is safe and at the same time, it is not the government's business to tell people how to practice their religion."

What would he have said had the situation been different? What would he have said had the subjects been, oh say, girls, and the person responsible was a ritual shamaness? Would it have been the government's "business" to tell people how to practice their religion then? Would Mayor Bloomberg had been as easy around the eggshells?

"Religious freedom" won out in this case, however, and the Health Commissioner of the day, Thomas R. Frieden basically let the mohel off the hook. Additionally, no further action was to be done regarding getting Orthodox leaders to abandon metzitzah b'peh.

Read the Frieden's open letter to the Jewish community here:

Quoth Rabbi David Niedorman of the United Jewish Organization:
"The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years... We do not change. And we will not change."

Time and time again, people feign ignorance and the foxes are allowed to guard the henhouse. Defenders of oral suction say there is no proof that it spreads herpes at all. In Rockland County, where the mohel lives in the Hasidic community of Monsey, he has been barred from performing oral suction. But the state health department retracted a request it had made to him to stop the practice. And in New Jersey, where the mohel has done some of his 12,000 circumcisions, the health authorities have been silent.

According to the mohel's lawyer, there was no "conclusive proof" that he had spread herpes, and that he should be allowed to continue the practice. According to the mohel, the twin who died and the Staten Island boy both had herpes-like rashes before they were circumcised and were seen by a pediatrician who approved their circumcision. (He knew this and yet he continued?) In other words, "not my fault."

Quoth Kenneth Glassberg, whose private practice includes Hasidic families:
"If I knew something caused a problem from a medical point of view, I would recommend against it."

Sure you would Glassberg, sure you would.

Death at a London Synagogue
Whenever deaths happen due to circumcision, specificaly male circumcision, it seems everyone knows to look the other way. People seem to pretend like they don't know at all what happened; you have a dead child who was alive and well not too long ago, and it was all due to some mysterious force of nature. Nobody knows what happened. The fact that the child was circumcised moments before is considered beyond suspicion a priori.

In February, 2007, a boy circumcised at Golders Green Synagogue turns blue bleeding from his nose and mouth 30 minutes after the procedure. Here too, we see the same exact, well-rehearsed dance. Nobody knows exactly how it happened, only that it happened just after circumcision, and the circumcision had nothing to do with it. Initially it was ruled that the boy died as a direct result of the procedure, but the inquest years later rules the boy died of "natural causes."

The coroner ruled the procedure had nothing to do with the boy's death, but instead blamed sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Quoth the coroner:
“I am satisfied to say the death was as a result of a naturally occurring disease process which simply ran its course.
“Any connection with Amitai's tragic death and the circumcision itself can be ruled out and I accept the circumcision was skillfully and deftly undertaken.
“There can be no suggestion that the Rabbi was in any way at fault or to blame for this tragedy.”

Quoth the "world leading expert" on SIDS that was called to give "evidence":
“With the circumcision itself, I can't think of any mechanism that would be responsible.”

(Perhaps he simply can't think... You don't suppose the child was struck by lightning?)

Quoth Jonathan Goldberg QC of the Initiation Society (a circumcision interest group by the way):
“This verdict puts paid to those ill-intentioned people who would have tried to use this tragedy to attack Jewish circumcision. (Rather than determining the boy's cause of death, this is what seems to be the most important...)
“Professor Fleming, a world renowned expert, demonstrated conclusively that the death was a freak occurrence due to sudden infant death syndrome, wholly unrelated to the circumcision.”

Yes, Professor Fleming. He would have had no previous interaction with you, now would he.

Of special interest in this ruling is that the Initiation Society, a pro-circumcision interest group was represented by a QC; non-circumcision interest groups such as NORM-UK and the child were not. The pathologist who performed the autopsy was not called, bringing into question what was the "naturally occuring disease that ran its course" and how the coroner knew this.

Opponents of infant genital mutilation are not "ill-intentioned" and have no focus on Jewish ritual; circumcision is also practiced by Muslims and non-theraputic "routine" circumcision is performed on children of secular families. It is a human rights issue no-matter who performs it, especially when death follows.

Back to our original boy at Beth Israel
I'll ask again:
DID this boy have to die? What was the reason he had to be circumcised in the first place? What was his problem? The medical or clinical indication for surgery? Did the child have a critical condition that could have only been remedied through surgery?

Surgery is a deliberate and intentional wound, and there are dangers any time a person is subjected to it. The dangers are infection and/or bleeding to death. Furthermore, there are dangers someone must be put under general anaesthesia; any operation that requires general anasthesia is a major operation. It is irresponsible, at best, to put a 2 year old under general anasthesia who had no medical problems at all.

Some might say that "he wouldn't have died if it were performed correctly." Or "he wouldn't have died had he been circumcised by a mohel." But here's the bottom line: If this boy was perfectly healthy and was not in need of surgery, it doesn't matter who had done it nor how; his death is completely irreconcilable.

Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, doctors have no business performing non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less pretending like they can give parents of said individuals any kind of "choice." But will anybody come to this obvious conclusion?

Here's exactly what will happen; it will be determined the boy had some overlooked, pre-existing condition. That, or there was something wrong with the general anaesthesia. At any rate, Beth Israel will promise they'll "do better next time." As usual, the hospital gets off the hook and the medically unnecessary child butchery continues. What a life...


  1. Thanks for reporting this. Forced genital cutting of children must end!

  2. "ANYTHING to vindicate the fact that the child's death is directly related to his circumcision."

    Just a (perhaps pedantic) point of clarification.
    The hospital would try to vindicate itself (from blame).
    They would try to vitiate (weaken) any connection between the circumcision and the death.
    Perhaps you meant "invalidate" but the word I would use in that sentence is "hide".

    1. Thanks for the advice! I've made the correction.