Skeptic News: Circumcision death

From: RDF foundation

Two children are dead, more are injured — yet a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis say they plan to defy a health order in the name of religious freedom.

Less than a year after a Brooklyn tot died following an ancient circumcision ritual, the rabbis say they will ignore a proposed law that would mandate parental-consent forms before performing the dangerous procedure. Over the past decade, at least one other newborn died after contracting herpes from the rite, in which the rabbi draws blood from the penis with his mouth.

But ultra-Orthodox leaders are lashing out at the city’s “evil plans” ahead of the Board of Health’s vote next week. About 200 rabbis signed a proclamation claiming the Health Department “printed and spread lies . . . in order to justify their evil decree.” “It is clear to us, that there is not even an iota of blame or danger in this ancient and holy custom,” the letter states.

Most modern mohels — men trained to perform religious circumcisions, who are usually rabbis or doctors — remove blood from the baby’s wound using a sterile pipette. But some Orthodox Jewish parents insist on an ancient “suction by mouth” ritual called metzitzah b’peh.

The city’s law would require mohels to distribute consent waivers, detailing the herpes risk, before the ritual.

It is a strange world indeed where the welfare of a newborn is considered below archaic religious traditions. This case is particularly ironic as metzitzah is a Rabbinic injunction meant to protect the health of the baby: As squeezing some blood from the wound was understood to prevent infection. The traditional reason for the metzitzah b’peh, procedure is to minimize the potential for postoperative complications and the tradition is maintained by some ultra-orthodox Jews rejecting the modern safe methods used in most Brit Milah procedures.

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