Back in March, we reported the death of another baby due to an extreme circumcision practice known as metzizah b’ peh. In this Orthodox ritual, the rabbi (or mohel) “removes blood from the wound with his mouth.” Not surprisingly, this practice poses a number of health risks. The Brooklyn baby that mostly recently died from it contracted a fatal form of herpes on his freshly cut penis directly from the Rabbi’s mouth. Now, in a stepped up effort to protect babies, all NYC city-owned hospitals will send home a pamphlet warning parents against this dangerous, albeit rare, circumcision practice.
According to the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, from 2000 to 2011, the ritual has caused herpes in 11 children (10 requiring hospitalization), two developed brain damage, and two other babies died:
“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn. Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals.”
Every New York City city-owned hospital has agreed to distribute the Department of Health flier, as well as eight other area private hospitals.
This isn’t the first time that city health officials have spoken out against the procedure, but this new effort is a result of the latest death. The Brooklyn D.A. launched an investigation into the last death. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg said, “There’s probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than me. But religious liberty simply does not extend to injuring others or putting children at risk.”
While a flier warning parents of the potential risks is better than nothing, it is not enough. This practice needs to be outlawed. No practice that may potentially cause disease and possible death to infants should be legal. Whether you are for or against a medically administered hospital circumcision is irrelevant. No grown man should ever be legally allowed to put his mouth on a newborn’s penis…ever. The practice was abandoned by most Jews in the mid-19th century out of fear of disease, so why would anyone in 2012, knowing what we know, allow this ritual to be performed on their child? Isn’t it time we stop hiding behind religion and look out for the well-being of babies instead?
MORE ON BABBLE