Saturday, March 17, 2012
Mohels Spreading Herpes: New York Looks the Other Way
In a recent post, I talk about the second reported case, where a child dies as a result of contracting herpes from a mohel through an obscure circumcision ritual that is practiced only by ultra-orthodox Jews. The ritual in question is called "metzitzah b'peh", and it involves the mohel putting his mouth on the wounded genitals of a newly circumcised Jewish baby boy to suck blood from it.
Well, as I read more and more into it, the plot just keeps getting thicker and thicker.
The last time I heard, Yitzchok Fischer of New York was found to have infected three newborns with herpes via metzitzah b'peh, one of whom died. He was basically pardoned by Health Commissioner of the day, Thomas R. Frieden, and no further action was to be done regarding getting Orthodox leaders to abandon metzitzah b'peh. Frieden's open letter to the Jewish community can be read here.
To prevent the transmission of herpes to other babies, the New York State Department of Health adopted a medical protocol in 2006, requiring ultra-orthodox mohels to wash their mouths with Listerine before performing the procedure.
Well, according to another recent report, the practice was rescinded less than a year later. According to The Jewish Week, Fischer was involved in the infection of yet *another* infant, who was admitted to a hospital with clinical diagnosis of neonatal herpes via oral suction in May, 2007. Based on that, the health department ordered Fischer to stop practicing metzitzah b’peh.
In my last post regarding this matter, I wondered as to the identity of the mohel responsible, and why it was not yet known. Authorities were investigating and the families involved weren't being to forthcoming as to the identity of the person responsible. I wondered if it was this self-same Fischer person whose identity people were trying to protect. Well, it looks like might have actually had reason to suspect. Apparently, despite his order from the health department to stop practicing the obscure oral suction ritual, Fischer is still performing it.
Only Two Out of Many
As I read more, I come to find out that while only these two cases have made the news, Haaretz reports that countless other deaths have not. And these are just the deaths; reports keep coming in of babies being admitted to hospitals for herpes infections with lesions around their genitals. You want to know why you hardly hear of complications due to circumcision? Well, this is why.
What is frustrating is that despite all the evidence piling up, mohels like Philip Sherman have the nerve to act singled out and "upset" that health authorities are doing their jobs.
"This is part of the anti-religious, anti-circumcision trend," Sherman blasts.
"Across the board, the infection rate for circumcisions is less than one half of one percent... The baby could have gotten herpes from a relative or someone in the Hospital, or many other people... You can't say for sure it was the circumcision."
How long are practitioners of a deadly ritual going to be allowed to get away with denial?
All I've got to say is, the degree to which New York authorities are tip-toeing around the eggshells is getting to be quite ridiculous.
Children are DYING, and they're more concerned about "upsetting" the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community?
How long until they realize that this "tradition" is costing children their LIVES?
Sometimes traditions have to be abandoned.
This is a tradition whose time has come.
May one day this world be a safe place for children of both sexes, free of life-endangering "traditions."