Hopkins ethicists say consent needed for Jewish circumcision ritual

Update: The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously to require parents to sign consent forms before their kids can have Jewish ritual circumcision. Read the New York Times account here.


A group of Johns Hopkins ethicists have written a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supporting a proposed amendment to require written consent for circumcisions that include an orthodox Jewish practice some say leads to to herpes.

The New York City Board of Health has proposed the amendment and could vote on the issue today.

At the center of the debate is circumcision that includes oral suction, where a circumciser puts his lips on the base of the baby's penis after the procedure to suction away any blood.

Some say the ritual can spread disease.

The New York City health department says that, between 2000 and 2011, 11 babies contracted herpes as a result, and 2 of them died, according to a New York Times story. This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the procedure created a risk for transmission of herpes and other pathogens and was “not safe," The New York Times found.

Mayor Bloomberg strongly supports consent for the ritual, which is still common in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

A group of nine ethicists from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics said in a letter that requiring consent will "help enable parents to make responsible choices to protect the well being of their infant children."

They also said governments have an "ethical duty to protect the interests of vulnerable infants."

The ethicists point out that The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against mouth-to-penis contact during circumcision because it can lead to infections in the child.



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