Some mohels are passing on deadly diseases to infants after circumcision in a rite called 'metzitzah b'peh'. Photo public domain.
Controversy surrounding a Jewish rite of circumcision among a small minority of Jews, where the person performing a newborn’s circumcision, called a mohel, uses a tradition called a metzitzah b’peh in which mohels use oral suction to suck blood from the circumcision wound, has left some infants with disease or even death. The oral suction leaves an infant vulnerable to a host of diseases and infection. While many mohel’s use safe methods to extract blood from a circumcision wound via a glass tube or gauze, some mohels are still using their mouths.
The action has allegedly lead to ten hospitalizations, two babies with brain damage and two infant deaths in New York. Two babies contracted herpes simplex virus Type 1 from the ritual over the last ten years.
The controversy and concern is rooted within the Jewish community, with many Jewish parents concerned about the safety of the metzizah b’peh tradition. According to the JTA, the practice is not routinely used in most Jewish sects and only exclusively used among the Haredi Orthodox community. Some parents whose infants contracted herpes after the procedure claimed their mohels neglected to tell them they would be performing the controversial act.
New York health officials are now proposing that Jewish parents sign waivers, offering informed consent from parents wishing to have their mohels engage in direct oral-genital suction. The New York health board, who will vote on the proposal in July and September, want parents to be aware of the potential risk involved with the religious tradition of metzizah b’peh.
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