Jewish Journal


March 7, 2012

Infant boy dies after receiving herpes from circumcision procedure


Despite the rhetoric flying around last summer, circumcision is an exceptionally safe procedure. But there is a religious variation that is less so. It involves oral suction of the wound, and it’s a manner of transmitting herpes.

In 2004, an infant in Brooklyn died after receiving herpes from the procedure. The following year, two twin infant boys died of the same causes. And this past weekend, officials announced that a two-week-old baby boy died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn from “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction.”

The New York Daily News appears to have broken the story, and it’s reawakened an old debate. Haaretz reports:

The Orthodox community has been divided over the most recent saga. Some rabbis, known as representatives of the Haredi-Hassidic public, claim hundreds of babies are circumcised each day and there is no knowledge of resulting faults or illnesses. They claim that those cases of deaths must be carefully investigated and cannot be used as a reason to stop the practice of oral suction, or that performed using a straw, which is at the underpinnings of mitzvat hamila, the deed of circumcision.

On the other hand, well-known Orthodox rabbis, like the rabbi Dr Moshe Tendler, who has been criticizing the practice of oral suction, insisting for years now that the practice be conducted using a straw.

The Brooklyn District Attorney has opened an investigation into the infant’s death. But for real change to occur, there needs to be an communal adoption of the method that Tendler advocates.

(Hat tip: Mike Elkin)

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