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NYC Board of Health outlaws ‘blood sucking’ in Orthodox circumcisions

posted at 4:30 pm on September 13, 2012 by

The New York City Department of Health, which has attempted to take the salt shaker of city dwellers’ hands and fake nipples out of the mouths of its newborns, is at it again. This time, the department’s target is an ancient religious ritual.

On Thursday, a nine-member panel of doctors and public health professionals unanimously ruled that parental consent must be given before a circumciser can use his mouth to remove blood from a freshly circumcised penis.

The New York Times explains that the practice of using oral suction (called metzitzah b’peh) to draw blood from the newly opened incision is strongly defended by ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis who believe it follows Talmudic teaching.

But not everyone agrees the procedure is kosher. Certainly not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported in June that 6 of 11 newborns that contracted herpes simplex in New York City hospitals over a period of 11 years were exposed to direct orogenital suction. Think about those numbers. Six infections in more than a decade may have resulted from the procedure. One of the infected newborns died, which is a tragedy. But it’s hardly an epidemic.

Which is why more than 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis have ordered mohelim, ritual circumcisers, not to comply with the regulation on the basis that it is an infringement on their religious freedom. One of them, Rabbi William Handler, is quoted by the Times as saying, “This [regulation] is being created without a shred of evidence. The city is lying, and slandering compassionate rabbis.”

The claim of slander is a bit over the top, but the First Amendment implications of the case are undeniable. One Orthodox group, Agudath Israel of America, is exploring the possibility of suing the city to block the regulation, which is scheduled to go into effect 30 days from official publication of the rule.

Don’t get me wrong. The procedure sounds disgusting and barbaric—even perverse. But forcing parents to sign a form acknowledging that the procedure can lead to brain damage or death seems like the worst kind of scare tactics.

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First, HHS. Now, The New York City Department of Health.

War on Religions (Other Than Islam) continues apace.

Bitter Clinger on September 13, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Don’t forget the attempts to ban circumcision in Germany.

rbj on September 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Don’t forget the attempts to ban circumcision in Germany.

Or in San Francisco.

Howard Portnoy on September 13, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Gotta say — from the headline, I was expecting a Matt Vespa post…

Jeddite on September 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM

The parents should know if they are risking herpes for their child, but, beyond that, it’s their choice.

Count to 10 on September 13, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Another reason not to be a rabbi. I can’t believe it’s allowed at all really. This isn’t religious freedom. You can argue with circumcision but not the method.

aniptofar on September 13, 2012 at 6:06 PM

First they went after your lunches and dinners.
Now they’re after the tips.

mrt721 on September 13, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Thats not at all creepy.

Mimzey on September 13, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Now they’re after the tips.

:=)

Howard Portnoy on September 13, 2012 at 6:33 PM

Jeddite on September 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Likewise :P

…although he got quite a bit better in the days and weeks following that one rather bizarre post.

Mr. Prodigy on September 13, 2012 at 6:57 PM

So I’m all for tradition and all but that one is a bit much for me.

joekenha on September 13, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Good. There is no 1rst Amend. right to make your kid sick.

Blake on September 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM

The ultra orthodox community is constantly be rocked by child sex scandals. This isn’t helping them.

Blake on September 13, 2012 at 8:17 PM

THe main problem is that they are not speaking to the rabbi’s or to any religious doctor’s. Many mohelim use a glass tube to suck the blood out. The problem is not that the procedure is improper, but that the board of health is attempting to ban it because it sounds gruesome. There are more problems that occur if a surgeon performs the procedure than an expert mohel. For example, the move to ban it for all males under the age of 18 actually causes more difficulties for the patient than doing it at 8 days old. Earlier, the child is too weak. Later it actually causes a harsher reaction in the body.

sabbahillel on September 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM

the board of health is attempting to ban it because it sounds gruesome.

Actually, it’s because of the risk of infected oral mucosa or saliva being transmitted to the child. As I wrote, however, there have been 6 cases of HSV in 11 years in infants who had the procedure, and even then there is no clear causation between the procedure and the infection.

Howard Portnoy on September 13, 2012 at 8:58 PM

sabbahillel on September 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM

The problem is that it transmits herpes. No one has a problem with using a glass tube except the extreme orthodox.

And I believe the actual infection rate is higher. It’s not like these people cooperate even when the health of their child is at issue.

Blake on September 13, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Gotta say — from the headline, I was expecting a Matt Vespa post…

Jeddite on September 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Likewise

…although he got quite a bit better in the days and weeks following that one rather bizarre post

thanks mr. prodigy – i learned my lesson, besides it’s an election year and my efforts would be better served knee-capping the left. staying clear on this one.

Matt Vespa on September 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM

that post was frivolous as well, howard’s is much more level-headed…

Matt Vespa on September 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/circumcision_controversy/

Blake on September 13, 2012 at 9:05 PM

I’m not a fan of the haredi-despite having haredi FB friends-but that site is nothing more than anti-orthodoxy BS.

annoyinglittletwerp on September 14, 2012 at 1:49 AM

But blood sucking by the government of NYC is just fine.

crosspatch on September 14, 2012 at 4:08 AM

annoyinglittletwerp on September 14, 2012 at 1:49 AM

You’re nothing more than BS.

Blake on September 14, 2012 at 5:21 AM

Ok, I just read about this procedure. Never heard of it before. Eek. Ban it. You don’t put babies at risk like that. Sorry, “tradition” needs to take a backseat to helpless’ newborns safety. This isn’t even a close call.

What an insult to compare this to salt bans or legitimate issues related to “wars” on religion.

bluegill on September 14, 2012 at 7:43 AM

First, HHS. Now, The New York City Department of Health.

War on Religions (Other Than Islam) continues apace.

Bitter Clinger on September 13, 2012 at 4:45 PM

The war on all religion except Islam will continue because al those other religions will passively take it. Muslims just kill people when something happens they don’t like. If Christians and Jews would just kill a few people in protest they’d get handled with kid gloves…

Doomsday on September 14, 2012 at 9:24 AM

For the editors and DHS monitors, that previous statement is dripping with sarcasm. It IS NOT a call to kill people…

Doomsday on September 14, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Wait til the BofH finds out about snake handlers.

Kissmygrits on September 14, 2012 at 10:29 AM

http://www.yated.com/doh-campaign-against-circumcision-takes-new-hit.7-742-0.html

DOH Campaign Against Circumcision Takes New Hit
By Debbie Maimon, Yated
MOHEL BLAMED FOR HERPES TESTS NEGATIVE

The Department of Health’s campaign to demonize metzitzah b’peh by blaming herpes infections in newborns on the mohel, has taken a new hit.

Twice in the past two months, the DOH has been embarrassed by evidence shattering its myth about the so-called life-threatening dangers of metzitzah b’peh.

In two of the five herpes cases continually cited as showcasing these “dangers,” new evidence backed by medical records has pointed to family members with active herpes sores – not the mohel – as the most likely source of the infection.

The discovery of this evidence, in live interviews with parents of the affected babies, has prompted sharp criticism of the Department’s policy of attacking the practice of mbp, and groundlessly targeting mohelim as the source of infection in every case.

In a third case, a baby with a rash on his knees was diagnosed as having herpes even though lab results were negative. Nevertheless, the DOH mounted a hunt for the mohel who performed mbp.

Now, for the first time, a mohel blamed for transmitting herpes to a Kiryas Yoel baby in May has submitted to blood tests to determine if in fact he carries HSV-1 antibodies.

A positive finding, while not proving claims that mbp caused the baby’s illness, would not disqualify the mohel as a potential source. In rare circumstances, someone who has herpes antibodies may “shed” the virus in his bloodstream and possibly transmit it to another party.

SINCE HE NEVER HAD THE VIRUS, HE COULDN’T HAVE TRANSMITTED IT

Contrary to Department presumptions, however, the mohel tested negative. That is proof positive that since he never had the HSV-1 virus, he could not possibly have transmitted it.

In an exclusive interview with Yated, the mohel, Rabbi G., said he chose to be tested a second time, to be absolutely sure.

“On the advice of my lawyer, Mr. Yerachmiel Simins,” he said, “we took the precaution of not only taking the test twice, but arranging witnesses and a legal affidavit signed by a doctor and two nurses, testifying to the results.”

The mohel said he felt these measures were necessary to protect himself from false attacks by health officials.

“I and other mohelim feel that when it comes to mbp, the truth no longer matters to the Health Department. They are after mohelim and are not interested in the facts.”

MOHEL: THOUSANDS OF BRISSEN – NOT A SINGLE INSTANCE OF HERPES

Rabbi G. said he didn’t need the test for his own peace of mind, that he had been a mohel for over a dozen years and had performed thousands of brissen. Of these thousands of circumcisions, he said, every single one had been done with metzitzah b’peh, and never once had a baby he circumcised fallen ill with herpes.

“If I have the slightest cold or infection of any sort, I would never touch the baby,” Rabbi G. said. “I also take precautions by sterilizing my mouth before doing metzitzah like all mohelim I know do.”

Rabbi G. said that in the aftermath of the discovery that the Kiryas Yoel baby was treated for a serious herpes infection, health officials apparently told the media that the mohel was to blame. The unfounded allegations were repeated in a spate of news articles that reported on the tragedy. Determined efforts were made by health officials to uncover his identity.

“Knowing how some of my colleagues have been hounded by the DOH over metzitzah b’peh, I was afraid that I too would be singled out,” Rabbi G. said. “One mohel was bashed in the press and hounded by the health department and reporters. His life was made miserable.”

sabbahillel on September 14, 2012 at 3:31 PM