Newborn Dies from Herpes After Circumcision Ritual
New York City prosecutors are investigating the death of a two-week-old baby after the newborn reportedly died of herpes contracted through a controversial ritual, circumcision with oral suction.
The practice known as metzitzah b’peh in Hebrew (oral suction) is when the mohel (a Jewish person trained in the practice of brit milah "covenant of circumcision") sucks blood from the circumcision wound to clean it during a bris -- a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony preformed on eight-day-old male babies. "The traditional reason for this procedure is to minimize the potential for postoperative complications, although the practice has been implicated in the spreading of herpes to the infant," according to Wikipedia.
The newborn died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn on Sept. 28 from Type 1 herpes, which he contracted from the ritual, the medical examiner’s office claims. The New York Times reported on the incident following police inquiry.
The Times noted that ultra-Orthodox communities and some Orthodox Jewish communities practice metzitzah b’peh even though New York City has tried to prevent them from doing so by educating the communities about the possible health risks.
New York City reported three cases in 2003 and 2004 when a newborn contracted Type 1 herpes as a result of circumcision. One of the boys, a twin from Staten Island, died. The circumcisions were done by mohel, Rabbi Yitzechok Fischer, who was banned from performing circumcisions by the city. Although authorities have not determined who the mohel was in the latest case, the Times says that it is believed that Rabbi Fischer was not under investigation.
Deaths caused by circumcisions are low. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that death is rare and about 1 infant in 500,000 die from circumcision.
In the summer of 2011, a group of "inatactivists" (people who believe baby boys have the right to not be circumcised) in San Francisco proposed a ban on male infant circumcisions. The city’s legal counsel, however, said that there is no way the proposed ban can answer state law requirements.
Those who opposed the ban filed a suit to take the measure off ballots. They said that the legislation threatens religious freedoms, parental rights and violates state laws as California does not allow local governments to restrict medical procedures.