The Brooklyn District Attorney has opened an investigation into the death of an unidentified baby at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn last fall following a controversial Orthodox circumcision practice, reports the NY Daily News.
Known as metzizah b’ peh, the rarely practiced Orthodox ritual allows a rabbi (or mohel) to “remove blood from the wound with his mouth” during a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony, or bris, performed on 8-day-old male infants.
Last September, a two-week old baby boy died in Brooklyn at Maimonides Hospital last fall after contracting herpes from an unidentified Rabbi. The official cause of death recently released from the boy’s death has been ruled as “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction.”
The paper reports that Brooklyn DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer said, “We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of this child,”
New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg is backing up the DA’s investigation, despite opposition from many who feel that religious practices should not be subject to scrutiny:
“The doctors who found this are objective and independent scientists who don’t answer to anyone, including whoever is Mayor.”
“One more point: 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. So we’ll continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates.”
The New York City Department of Health maintains that “oral herpes spreads easily through saliva, especially when saliva touches a cut or break in the skin, such as during metzitzah b’peh. Because the immune system of newborns is not developed enough to fight serious infection, herpes infections pose grave risks to infants.”
Back in 2004 in Rockland County, there was a public outcry after three infants circumcised by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer contracted herpes from the same religious practice. One case was fatal. Other babies have died while still others have lived but suffered brain damage.